It looks like the EU parliament is enacting more consumer-focused rules, this time approving a vote to abolish roaming charges for phones used in the bloc. The ban on roaming surcharges will take effect by 15 December 2015, assuming the individual countries all ratify the law. The rule affects voice, SMS and data usage across borders, essentially making a phone in any one country usable at the same rates anywhere else in the region. This is especially good news for travelers as roaming charges can be quite significant; $20/megabyte of data or $3.99/minute of calling are not unheard of rates. For a foreign traveler visiting multiple countries in the region it means that a single SIM card should be sufficient if one chooses to pick up a local SIM. I’ve had plenty of multi-day, multi-country trips where getting a SIM each time simply wasn’t worth the time required.
The bill also included text which ensures “net neutrality” as part of the new rules. Providers will not be able to block or impair traffic of certain applications to the benefit of others with these new rules. Rapporteur Pilar del Castillo Vera (EPP, ES) commented on the inclusion of the amendment, “We have achieved further guarantees to maintain the openness of the Internet by ensuring that users can run and provide applications and services of their choice as well as reinforcing the Internet as a key driver of competitiveness, economic growth, jobs, social development and innovation.” Similar efforts in the USA have seen a tougher go of being adopted by the FCC.
Both of these aspects of the new law are big wins for consumers. The elimination of roaming fees should significantly drop those costs, though this also assumes that rates won’t rise to offset the profit loss associated with the change. And the assurance of access for all applications and types of data mean consumers will continue to have unfettered access to future developments. I like that a lot.
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