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24th Oct 2021

National plans on roaming are 'a joke', EU says

  • Governments want to delay implementation of rules ending roaming surcharges (Photo: Matthew Kenwrick)

The EU’s digital economy chief has branded government proposals on mobile roaming charges “a joke”, accusing them of watering down EU plans to scrap roaming charges and improve regulation of the Internet.

Andrus Ansip, digital single market commissioner, accused governments of “a lack of ambition” in their approach to the revision of the EU’s telecoms legislation.

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The so-called telecoms package, put forward by the previous commission, promised to end roaming surcharges when calls are made or data is sent and received outside of the home country of the subscriber.

The proposal was backed by the European parliament in spring last year when MEPs voted to end roaming surcharges by December 2015.

But member states earlier this month agreed to row back on the commission’s proposal to scrap roaming charges, instead arguing that “a transitional period is needed to allow roaming providers to adapt to wholesale market conditions”. Governments said companies should be allowed to apply surcharges after the bill took effect in 2016.

“On roaming, I cannot support the very limited basic allowance of Council's current reply to people's call for the complete abolition of roaming charges,” said Ansip. “It is a joke.”

“We must definitely go further. We should remember our ultimate aim: the full and swift abolition of roaming surcharges – and not only their reduction,” he added.

“The commission's position is clear. We need to abolish roaming charges as soon as possible. We need strong net neutrality rules."

Ansip also urged lawmakers to take a tougher stance on net neutrality.

Governments agreed to include a series of exceptions in the bill under which Internet providers can slow down access to content and applications and promote “specialised services”, which Internet campaigners say goes against the principles of a free Internet.

“On net neutrality…we need to make sure that the internet is not splintered apart by different rules. This is why we need common rules for net neutrality,” said Ansip. “Then, we need an open internet for consumers. No blocking or throttling.”

Ansip will present the commission’s policy priorities for its Digital Single Market Strategy on Wednesday (25 March). A digital single market was one of the ten main priorities set out by Jean-Claude Juncker’s new commission on taking office last autumn.

But the Commission itself has not presented a united front on Internet regulation, particularly net neutrality. Last week, Gunther Oettinger, also a digital agenda commissioner, compared net neutrality campaigners to the Taliban.

There are now trilogue negotiations with the European Parliament and ministers, mediated by the EU executive, in a bid to strike a deal on the bill.

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.

EU to ban roaming charges, internet throttling

The EU commission has put forward plans to ban charges for incoming calls when abroad, but allowing internet providers to charge more for high-quality connections.

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