The European Parliament voted Tuesday to adopt an agreement that will end mobile roaming charges by June 2017. The approval also marked the passage of certain net neutrality rules, the European Commission said.
“Today’s vote is the final result of intense efforts to put an end to roaming charges in the European Union and to safeguard the open Internet,” Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip said in a statement. “As from mid-June 2017, Europeans will pay the same price to use their mobile devices when travelling in the EU as they do at home.”
“This is not only about money; this is about bringing down barriers in the Digital Single Market,” Ansip continued. “Today’s achievement is a first step towards a Telecoms Single Market. More work will need to be done to overcome national silos and address challenges such as spectrum coordination. We will go further as early as next year with an ambitious overhaul of EU telecoms rules. We count on the support of the European Parliament and Member States to make this happen.”
The deal that passed Tuesday was initially agreed upon back in June, after several years of negotiations between the European Parliament, Commission and Council.
According to the terms of the agreement, roaming charges will be lowered to €0.05 per minute on calls, €0.02 per SMS message sent and €0.05 per MB of data used starting in April 2016. The decreases will continue the steady decline of roaming charges that began when the EU initially took up the issue in 2007.
As of June 15, 2017, EU citizens will be able to pay the same rates as at home when traveling within the EU, meaning any calls, texts or data will be charged to their regular plan at domestic rates. However, the law does include a “fair use safeguard” to prevent customers from abusing the system – for instance, by buying a SIM card from another EU country where rates are cheaper and engaging in “permanent roaming” – that allows operators to charge small fees once a certain roaming limit is reached.
The Commission said the new rules will benefit Europeans who travel but will also promote “the cross-border use of connected devices and services (e.g. connected cars) and boost the evolution of mobile apps.”
“Roaming charges currently teach users to switch off their mobile phone when abroad,” the Commission said on its Roaming Charge Fact Sheet. “If they are not afraid of their bills anymore, they will use their devices more regularly when they are travelling – this means more opportunities for online businesses and start-ups to provide services to consumers when they travel in the EU.”
The net neutrality portion of the agreement specifies both that “blocking and throttling the Internet will be illegal in the EU and users will be free to use their favorite apps” without having to pay extra fees and that “all traffic will be treated equally.” Paid prioritization in the open Internet will also be banned, the Commission said.
However, tech critics have taken the net neutrality rules to task for allowing exceptions, such as for temporary or exceptional “network congestion” and “specialized services with quality requirements,” that they say could result in a two-tier internet.
Filed Under: Industry regulations