With a view to boost investment and growth in electronic communications in the EU and with a view to serve customer interests better the European Commission has announced a new set of reforms for a connectec Europe. A post
on this subject from International Business Times quotes the European Commission’s telecoms chief Neelie Kroes as follows,
“Global competitors caught on to this long ago; Europe, once an ICT leader, is now lagging behind. Japan, South Korea and the USA combined have around the same population as the EU – but over eight times more fixed fibre broadband, and almost 15 times more 4G,”
The proposed legislation is reported to include:
Open internet – the proposals aim to enshrine net neutrality into law across the EU, meaning operators will no longer be allowed to block, slow down, degrade or discriminate against specific, content, applications or services, except in very limited, concretely defined cases.
Actual data speed – Operators will be obliged to provide clear information about the actual available data speed for downloads and uploads, including at peak-hours. If the actual speed the consumer receives is lower than the advertised speed, the operator will be considered to be in breach of their contract obligations.
Easier control of consumption – Consumers will be able to set how much they want to spend every month and once they hit 80% of this figure they will get a notification – also, detailed and itemised bills will be available free-of-charge.
End of roaming charges – The most high profile change being pushed through, the legislation could see the end of extra charges for making and receiving calls when you travel outside of your home country. While the proposals only seek to see the removal of charges for taking calls while roaming, they EC is also looking to get operators to promote “roam-like-at-home” offers where voice, SMS and data are all charged at the same rate while roaming within the EU.
The proposals will need approval from all 28 EU nations and the European Parliament if they are to become law, and if it does get approval the first changes are likely to take effect by July 2014.
While these appear to be excellent reforms, it is also reported that the Industry [has] attack[ed these] EU telecoms reforms
. Clearly roaming is a major source of revenue and their profits will take a hit. They warn against rising prices and less consumer choice as a consequence of these reforms. Small operators complain that roaming reforms have been “watered down” on account of lobbying by big operators. There are also proponents of anti-net neutrality argument who plead that they should atleast be allowed to provide premium packages.
What I liked best was a quote from Stephen Howard, head of telecoms research at HSBC, “Politics is the art of the possible, and this initiative at last sets Europe on what we regard as a pro-investment course.”