New strategy seeks to harmonise telecoms sector, ban roaming charges, cut red tape for businesses and introduce new rights for users and service providers.
Despite 26 years of progress, the EU’s telecoms sector remains fragmented, operating mainly on the basis of national markets. As a result European companies have fallen behind their US and Asian competitors.
The ‘Connected Continent’ package aims to rejuvenate the EU’s flagging telecoms sector by abolishing roaming charges and simplifying rules to promote investment in new high-speed networks to boost growth and create jobs.
The economic sector increasingly depends on faster connections, and it is estimated that completing the telecoms single market would create thousands of jobs and increase GDP by nearly 1% every year.
An end to roaming charges
From July 2014 you would no longer be charged extra when you receive a call on your mobile phone while travelling in another EU country. Companies would need to offer “roam like at home” packages that apply across the bloc, or allow you to use a separate roaming provider without changing your original SIM card.
International call charges would be capped at the price of a long-distance domestic call and intra-EU mobile calls at €0.19 per minute (plus VAT).
The Commission also supports ‘net neutrality’ – the principle that the Internet should be an open system – which would mean restricting companies from offering deals, for example, on higher data‑transmission speeds, which could restrict access by their rivals.
Consumer rights across Europe
Full harmonisation of consumer‑protection rules would eliminate the need for customising services in every country and give consumers added protection.
EU citizens would also benefit from simplified ‘plain language’ contracts, greater rights to switch provider or contract, and to cancel a contract if promised internet speeds are not delivered.
Cutting red tape and increasing investment
The EU wants to make it easier for telecoms companies to enter new markets. To achieve this, a licence in one country would be valid across the EU and future allocations of spectrum for broadband would be standardised to simplify cross-border investment plans.
To encourage investment in fast fibre-optic broadband and ensure more access to 4G services and Wi-Fi, prices will be stabilised for renting access to networks. This should strengthen competition in the sector.
The proposals will need approval from the European Parliament and all 28 EU countries.
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