Skip to main content
Insight

Breaking news – the end of data roaming charges and the beginning of net neutrality

A further update to my blog posted earlier today – overnight the Latvian Presidency has reached a provisional deal with the European Parliament on the Telecommunications Single Market Regulations A further update to my blog posted earlier today – overnight the Latvian Presidency has reached a provisional deal with the European Parliament on the Telecommunications Single Market Regulations which include rules to end mobile roaming fees and ensure net neutrality.

Under the agreement, roaming charges will cease to exist in the EU as of 15 June 2017, allowing EU consumers to "roam like at home" whilst traveling in the EU.

The European Commission press release has noted that a series of technical conditions will need to be fulfilled and that the Commission is "fully committed to implementing those conditions and making sure that the end of roaming charges is operational as of day one". In addition, the Latvian President's press release has stated that  that operators will be able to apply a "fair use policy" to prevent abusive use of roaming, and that "safeguards will be introduced to address the recovery of costs by operators".

It will be interesting to see how these conditions and cost recovery mechanisms are addressed, as significant variations across a number of important parameters across Member States (such as varying network demand, differences between operators, travelling and consumption patterns and costs) have previously been raised by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC). BEREC, in its analysis of roam like at home last December, went as far as to say, "there is no roam like at home sweet spot" and that significant policy trade-offs would be required.

The agreement also introduces the first EU-wide open internet rules, whereby operators will have to treat all traffic equally when providing internet access services. This will be subject to reasonable traffic management measures (such as network security, combating child pornography or preventing traffic congestion). The press release also clarified that, "agreements on services requiring a specific level of quality will be allowed" (such as Internet TV and new innovative applications), however in doing so, operators must ensure "the general quality of internet access services".  The agreement that has been reached retains the controversial principle that network operators and ISPs will be allowed to enter into agreements with content and applications providers to prioritise certain services.   Some would argue that this is a dilution of true "open internet" principles and that it raises concerns about the creation of a two-tier internet, with fast-lanes for certain content and applications. The concern is that this will disadvantage smaller content and app providers who don't have the resources to buy fast-lane access.   There has been strong opposition to this element of the EU's open internet rules. Some 100 members of the European Parliament signed a letter earlier this year criticising the EU's "weakened proposals on net neutrality". The EU approach contrasts with that in the US (which Mark Webber reported on earlier this year), where the Federal Communications Commission adopted an Open Internet Order in February this year that prohibits paid-for prioritisation of internet traffic.

The agreed text will be presented for confirmation by Member States under the Luxembourg Presidency and we will continue to keep you updating on its progress.

Sign up to our email digest

Click to subscribe or manage your email preferences.

SUBSCRIBE