EC, European Parliament Agree on End to Mobile Roaming Fees
Though the rules still must be approved by nations within the European Union, the European Parliament has voted in favor of an end to mobile roaming fees across the EU in 2017.
That move is likely to put pressure on mobile service provider revenues, even as it lowers retail costs for mobile customers.
The new rule also ban paid prioritization, but do seem to allow for zero rating, though officials say they will be watchful about that practice.
Prior to the agreement, European Union and European Parliament members had disagreed in some respects about the specific rules and the implementation dates.
Under the new agreement, roaming surcharges in the European Union will be abolished as of June 15, 2017. The Parliament had wanted a 2016 effective date, while RU officials were willing to wait until 2018.
However, roaming providers will be able to apply “fair use” policies that limit the total amount of foaming usage.
Roaming fees will start to drop on April 30, 2016, when the current retail caps will be replaced by a maximum surcharge of €0.05 per minute for calls, €0.02 for SMSs and €0.05 per megabyte for data.
Under the EU-wide open internet rules, operators will have to treat all traffic equally when providing internet access services as well, though mobile operators may use reasonable traffic management measures.
Blocking or throttling of apps 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 new rules do not allow paid prioritization, the practice whereby app providers pay ISPs for packet acceleration, in exchange of payment.
At the same time, end-users and providers of Internet access “will continue being able to agree on different access speeds and data volumes as they do today,” the EU says. That means mobile operators can lawfully sell different-sized buckets of usage, or even speed tiers.
Notably, the new rules do not forbid managed services, such as entertainment video or carrier voice services.
The EU says it will continue to monitor zero rating practices, so one presumes zero rating might still be lawful.
“Zero rating does not block competing content and can promote a wider variety of offers for price-sensitive users, give them interesting deals, and encourage them to use digital services,” the European Commission says. “Regulatory authorities will therefore have to monitor and ensure compliance with the rules.”