Today, after just over two years, the European Parliament has given its final approval for new rules on roaming and the open internet. This decision also strengthens consumer rights in the telecom market.

This is positive news for everyone, roaming charges are seen by citizens as a very annoying as they do not understand why in the EU there should be extra fees while traveling. Today a decisive step towards the gradual abolition of those fees has been made. The new system which will be introduced is called "roam like at home" that means exactly what you expect: use the mobile devices at the rates you pay nationally.

 

The new system will be introduced gradually. The first milestone will be April 2016. In few months from now the new system roam like at home will be introduced with an additional small extra fee that the users will be pay compared to national subscriptions. This extra fee will be equal to the regulated wholesale cost paid by the operators. The result is that in April 2016 there will be significantly lower roaming charges. The revolution will be completed in 15 June 2017 when these extra-charges for roaming will finally be abolished altogether (also as result of the reform of whole markets that will be completed in 2016). In June 2017 the full benefits of the roam like at home system will kick in. You will be paying your national tariff while traveling in the EU.

 

Good news for all of us traveling in EU and good news for developing a fully connected European economy and society without borders.

 

The other important milestone that today vote has set is the establishment of EU wide legislation rules to guarantee an open Internet. With the new rules, all internet traffic will be treated equally and there will be no paid prioritisation of access service. This ensures that all Europeans have access to online content and service without discrimination. The regulation bans blocking and throttling of services. For example this will put an end to mobile operators blocking your favourite voice or video calls apps or asking more money to use them.

 

The new regime also improves transparency for consumers: operators will have to inform their subscribers about guaranteed internet speeds and the remedies available if they do not get those speeds.

 

There will be no "fast lanes": we have banned paid prioritisation and all traffic has to be treated equally. Our rules allow under the strict supervision of national regulators to treat the data traffic other than the access to internet, such as for example data generated by a medical sensor as specialised services provided that the open internet is not negatively affected.

 

Again under the strict supervision of National Regulators Commercial agreements and practices, including "zero rating" that circumvent the rules or limit the user choice will not be allowed.  There will not be different classes of internet traffic, as the new rules oblige providers of internet access to treat all traffic in the same way.

Finally, service providers will not be able to slow down traffic any time they like by referring to a threat to network congestion. There are very strict conditions, to block, throttle or take discriminatory actions in order to mitigate the effects of congestion. Such measures are only permitted if congestion is "exceptional" or "temporary". A provider whose network is continuously or repeatedly congested cannot invoke this exception but has to invest into capacity extension. The National Regulators will monitor the application of those rules and will have the power to inhibit illicit behaviour and impose sanctions when necessary.

 

The adoption of those rules on net neutrality has been the result of a democratic process. It is legislation not an administrative ruling that makes the result even more important. As ever in democracy there are critical voices, I have sympathy for those that in their eyes want to guarantee more freedom by proposing even stricter rules but overregulation especially in a sector like the internet that moves at speed of light is equally limiting freedom. Without innovation and investments we will not achieve the goal of every EU citizen connected to high speed internet no matter where they are. We need to take care of the developments in the medical sector, financial industry and transport industry that will guarantee safer and better products through the internet. I firmly believe we have achieved in Europe an innovative and balanced approach, strict rules to guarantee the open internet with the possibility for new service to develop; it is a good starting point for our digital journey.

 

 

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