EU Commission’s plan pushes for net neutrality

Today, the EU Commission has adopted its ambitious "connected continent" plan putting pressure on telecoms providers to end roaming charges in 2014. As part of the plan, if approved, calls will also be capped at a sensible rate.

Carriers have been particularly vocal in their disagreement with the plan to scrap roaming charges altogether; saying it would be at a €7bn (£5.9bn) cost to their business.

However, providers will be allowed to charge more for data-heavy services at high speeds; which should help balance the loss.

Through encouraging telecoms companies to invest more in their infrastructure; higher speeds can be maintained, keeping Europe in a competitive position against counterparts in Asia and North America. For example, Hong Kong has an average speed of 63.6 Mbps - compared to 14.7 Mbps in UK.

Cross-border calls will be capped at 19 cents per minute whilst travelling in Europe; whilst costs to receiving calls would be scrapped. The loss to carriers should be offset by higher usage.

Other measures include preventing operators from banning access to OTT services such as Skype for their own means, however, ISPs can charge services to prioritise their traffic – as long as it doesn’t affect normal internet usage.

One of the biggest talking points recently is the offloading of mobile data to local area networks; helping to build an even more reliable infrastructure. Barriers which prevented this are now being removed; opening up a more sustainable future than being increasingly dependent on mobile data.

To put pressure on carriers to drop roaming charges completely in 2014; less restrictions will be placed on them if they agree now. For example, customers on a network who haven’t scrapped charges will be able to choose another provider for international calls, texts, and data, without changing their SIM card or receiving a second bill.

"The European Commission says no to roaming premiums, yes to net neutrality, yes to investment, yes to new jobs," EU telecoms chief Neelie Kroes said in a statement.

But before the plan is put in motion; it has to gain the approval of the 28 EU governments and the EU parliament. An unenviable job - but one Neelie Kroes and the commission is willing to tackle.

Of course the overall goal is still to have a single telecoms regulator across Europe to prevent all the bureaucracy when facing decisions, but this is a long-term task, and one which will be a real struggle to take power away from long-standing institutions such as Ofcom.

What do you think about the EU Commission’s plan announced this morning?

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