Eliminating roaming, securing net neutrality

The European Parliament agreed to abolish roaming charges and Internet providers will no longer be able to block or slow down Internet services. But...

How did we get here?

Right now, there are no rules on net neutrality at EU level. This means that most Europeans are without legal protection when it comes to their right to access the full open Internet. Electronic communication providers and customers face different rules and different levels of protection in different Member States.

In spring of 2013, the European Council asked the European Commission to initiate a proposal for achieving a single market in telecoms. After that, Neelie Kroes, then Commissioner for Digital Agenda put forward a draft in September 2013.


Why is this important for me?

Two aspects, two reasons:

1) The Internet is supposed to stay open and free for everyone. No company should be able to pay more to b­­lock anyone from or expose anybody to certain content. Net neutrality, basically, is online non-discrimination.

2) Using your phone abroad in another EU Member State - be it for calling texting, surfing the web - should cost the same as at home.


What's the content?

On net neutrality: Internet providers will have to respect net neutrality and will no longer be able to block or slow down internet services provided by their competitors for commercial reasons (see a nice explanation by John Oliver). However, the final text allows Internet Service Providers to treat certain types of traffic differently - especially vital services, like e-health - but only if it is necessary for the functioning of the services and is not used to circumvent the rules on non-discriminatory treatment. So net neutrality light. Yet, the provisions were later clarified by the guidelines of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) which actually tightened loopholes that could have jeopardized net neutrality.

On roaming: After a transition period, the "ban" on roaming charges will begin on 15 June 2017. Until then, prices for using a mobile phone abroad will be reduced: the maximum surcharge for calls will be 5 cents per minute (down from 19 cents), whereas text messages will cost an additional 2 cents (down from 6 cents) and 5 cents per megabyte (20 cents today). Operators are free to offer cheaper rates. Yet, to protect telecom companies against abuses, “permanent roaming” will not be possible. This means, you cannot look for the cheapest provider across the EU and then choose - let's say a Bulgarian company - to permanently call and surf in France, where you live.

In September 2016 the Commission specified the rules: First, they proposed to only ban roaming for 90 days a year. Yet, due to public pressure these plans were withdrawn and a new version was published: Roaming is banned wthout any limits on time or data volume and telecoms operators have to intervene if they detect abuse related to permanent roaming (check the detailed rules). In early 2017 the EU institutions reached a deal on wholesale roaming, the last piece necessary to finally abolish roaming charges on schedule in mid June 2017.


What's happening with this legislation in the future?

After two years of difficult discussions, the above deal could be reached with Member States at the end of June 2015. This deal was formally adopted by each, the Council and the Parliament, in October 2015 (the Parliament voted against refusing the Council's position in its vote = adopted it). In November 2015 the act was signed and published. Now, the rules are directly applicable in all Member States (according to the deadlines above) and do not need to be transposed in national law. The specifics of the roaming rules were then defined by the Commission in a so-called delegated act (see details above).


Related Bills:

Cross-border portability: Access to streaming services from abroad

Updated European data protection laws

New consumer rules for online shopping

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