Wednesday 1 July 2015

Data Roaming Charges to End in EU within Two Years

Roaming Charges Abolish – June 2017

For a long period the Commission had been working to decrease roaming charges with the European Union and has reached a preliminary deal recently to abolish mobile roaming charges across the 28 country bloc by June 2017 and telecom operators need to treat all internet traffic equally. Prices for roaming calls, SMS and data have fallen by 80% from 2007 and the data roaming presently is up to 91% cheaper when compared to 2007.

The draft agreement indicates an important step in the EU’s plan to service the digital market of the continent in order to enhance the grown and to meet up with Asia and United States.Latvia, holding the rotating EU presidency, has commented in a statement after 12 hours of talks with EU lawmakers, that `under the agreement, roaming surcharges in the European Union will be abolished as of June 15, 2017’.The deal would need the approval of the European Parliament and EU member states, some of whom have been pushing for the abolition of roaming charges in December in 2018. While some countries having a good number of tourists, like Spain and Greece have profited from higher prices, Eastern European countries are apprehensive that operators could hike domestic prices if roaming charges are eliminated prematurely.

Net Neutrality – Equal Internet Tariff 

Consumer’s rights group who say member states are defending the interest of their national operators have been annoyed with the delay. Roaming charges would be dropped in April 2016 in a temporary move, with maximum surcharges of 0.05 euros per minute of a call or megabyte of data and 0.02 euros per text message which would make the maximum charges for roaming around 75% cheaper than the prevailing tariff covers, according to the Commission.

The European Commission has set limits on roaming prices from 2007 stating that the retail rates for cross-border calls, texts as well as data have decreased by more than 80% and for data by 91%. With regards to net neutrality, the European Unions has decided to plan telecom operators to treat all the internet traffic in an equal manner and blocking would only be permitted for certain reasons like counter cyber-attacks or child pornography.

Start-ups to Benefit

Some of the companies like Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia and Orange had promoted to obtain more margins in tapping into a potentially profitable source of revenue. However, Internet activists state that this would be creating a two speed internet which would only benefit companies.

The rules could prove to be advantageous to start-ups which showcase their business or sell on the internet, would need to be able to compete on equal footing with bigger players and the latter would not be in a position to pay for privileged access to the end users. The Commission had stated that `the access to a start-up’s website will not be unfairly slowed down to make way for bigger companies. No service will be stuck because it does not pay an additional fee to Internet service providers and there won’t be gatekeepers to decide what you can and cannot access’.

Net Neutrality to Support Internet TV

The ban will be led by a fourteen month provisional period wherein companies could add surcharges though at reduced rates. The deal which was recently approved set out rules stating that telecom operators need to treat most of the internet tariff in an equal manner but the net neutrality rules will enable firms to support some services like the internet TV.

The agreement is the outcome of yearsof agitating on cutting down roaming charges and to define the approach of EU nation in regulating internet traffic especially with regards to the US adoption of net neutrality rules. ISPs would be able to support services in need of high quality internet connections namely internet TV as long as they do not impose on the overall quality of internet traffic.

Agreement to be Presented July – December this Year

The agreement is said to be presented between July and December this year for formal adoption to the European Union member states.The fourth largest grouping of MEPs in the European Parliament – The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) had earlier disapproved regulators in trying to suppress the plans in putting an end data roaming. However it was welcomed when the announcement was made. Guy Verhofstadt, President of the ALDE stated that `the great roaming rip-off’ was to be brought to an end’.

The group had accused the delay in the successful negotiation of the deal on member state that has been blamed for seeking to protect their national operators earlier. However, another member of the group, Marietie Schaake MEP reintroduced the attack on the net neutrality deal commenting that `the compromise reached now is a water-down version of the strong ambitions of the European Parliament’.

Global campaign manager at World Wide Web Foundation, Renata Avila added her comments that `despite claiming to protect net neutrality, the deal agreed by the Commission, Parliament and Council has decided to allow specialised services, but has then failed to define what is meant by this, leaving the door open for a two-tier internet, specialised services should be tightly defined and seen as the exception, not the rule’.

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