Thursday

13th May 2021

Late-night deal: Roaming to end June 2017

  • As of June 2017, roaming surcharges while in another EU country will be a thing of the past (Photo: David van der Mark)

After a 12-hour marathon that ended in the early hours of Tuesday (30 June), negotiators in Brussels agreed on an end to roaming surcharges by June 2017 and adopted EU rules to prevent data discrimination by internet providers.

The compromise deal, between the European Parliament and EU governments, mediated by the European Commission, ends months of deadlock but also delays the fulfilment of promises by parliament and commission.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

MEPs and the commission had promised to end roaming surcharges, added to phone bills for calling, texting, or going online while abroad, by the end of 2015.

But national governments have been reluctant to cut the revenue stream for telecommunication companies. Initially, governments proposed to allow only a "basic roaming allowance", but slowly moved towards the EP position of abolishment.

The final deal to end to roaming by 15 June 2017 is a compromise.

That means two more summers of switching off your phone when going to another member state.

Meanwhile, the already existing cap on roaming surcharges will be lowered to €0.05 per minute of call made, €0.02 per sent text message, and €0.05 per megabyte of data (excluding VAT).

“Europeans have been calling and waiting for the end of roaming charges ... They have been heard”, said digital single market commissioner Andrus Ansip in a press statement.

However, a commission statement on the deal will include “fair use safeguard” to “prevent abusive uses”.

Abusive use is “for example, if the customer buys a SIM card in another EU country where domestic prices are lower to use it at home; or if the customer permanently stays abroad with a domestic subscription of his home country.”

The negotiators have not yet made it public what constitutes fair use, but the commission did note that there can be a penalty.

“These unusual behaviours are also called 'permanent roaming' and could have a negative impact on domestic prices, and ultimately on consumers. This is why there is a fair use safeguard. Once that limit is reached while being abroad, a small basic fee can be charged", the Ansip statement says.

Part of the deal are the first EU-wide rules on net neutrality, the principle that internet providers or other intermediaries do not discriminate between data streams: that a video from company A should be streamed just as quickly (or slowly) as a video from company B.

The commission in its statement said net neutrality rules are “the strongest in the world”, although digital commissioner Guenther Oettinger chose the phrase “pragmatic net neutrality rules”.

Although the commission press release notes that internet users “will not be unfairly blocked or slowed down anymore, and paid prioritisation will not be allowed”, the member states' press release noted that providers “may use reasonable traffic management measures”.

“Blocking or throttling will be allowed only in a limited number of circumstances, for instance to counter a cyber-attacks and prevent traffic congestion. Agreements on services requiring a specific level of quality will be allowed, but operators will have to ensure the general quality of internet access services”, the national governments' statement said.

Only when the legal text is available will an independent review of how strong the net neutrality rules are be possible.

In a social media message on Tuesday at around 2:00am Brussels time, Austrian Green MEP Michel Reimon wrote that socialist MEPs “agreed that internet is no longer neutral”, indicating that not everyone is happy with the result. Reimon could not be reached on Tuesday morning.

In earlier statement on Monday, Reimon noted that he had asked for the negotiations to be continue later, but a majority clearly wanted to continue.

Tuesday is the last day of Latvia's six-month presidency and the Baltic state was keen to clinch a deal as part of its legacy.

The net neutrality rules will apply from 30 April 2016.

EU countries to break promise on roaming surcharges

National governments are set to break a promise EU politicians have been making to citizens, by suggesting that roaming surcharges could continue beyond the end of 2015, and adding exceptions to the principle of network neutrality.

EUobserved

EU announces digital deal, but where is the text?

EU institutions say there is a deal allowing EU citizens to access their online content across the EU. Great news, but why can we not yet see the actual compromise?

News in Brief

  1. No EUobserver newsletter on Friday 14 May
  2. Germany stops Facebook gathering WhatsApp data
  3. Italy rebuts reports of EU deal with Libya
  4. MEPs demand EU states protect women's reproductive rights
  5. At least nine dead in Russia school shooting
  6. Bulgaria interim government appointed until July election
  7. German priests defy pope to bless same-sex couples
  8. New EU public prosecutor faults Slovenia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. EU aims at 'zero pollution' in air, water and soil by 2050
  2. French police arrest Luxembourg former top spy
  3. Vaccine drives spur better-than-expected EU economic recovery
  4. Slovenia causing headaches for new EU anti-graft office
  5. 'No place to hide' in Gaza, as fighting escalates
  6. EU chases 90m AstraZeneca vaccines in fresh legal battle
  7. Fidesz MEP oversees FOI appeals on disgraced Fidesz MEP
  8. Belgium outlines summer Covid relaxation plans

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us