There's good news for European travelers this morning thanks to an EU decision that all data, text and cell phone roaming surcharges in European Union (EU) countries will be abolished from 2017.
The decision was made by EU negotiators at a meeting that went on to the early hours of this morning. To arrive at an agreement banning roaming charges, the negotiators had to weaken plans for net neutrality rules.
Britain's Liberal Democrat representative on the EU, Catherine Bearder said “Finally the end of rip-off roaming charges in Europe is firmly in sight. From Riga to Rome, two years from now holidaymakers will be free to use their phones freely wherever they are in the EU. This shows how being in the EU means we can deliver a fairer, cheaper deal for British consumers.”
The Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA) an association made up of world wide cell phone operators, although welcoming the vote as it would help stabilize industry regulation also warned more had to be done.
GSMA European vice president Afke Schaart said “the EU should aim to quickly modernize and, wherever possible, reduce regulation in the sector, taking into full account the increasing competition that is emerging from non-traditional sources.”
A official EU press release said the roaming charge agreement also guarantees “strong net neutrality rules protecting the right of every European to access Internet content, without discrimination.” However net neutrality activists are not convinced.
Estelle Massé of Access, a European based at digital rights group said “The EU institutions have agreed on a text that authorizes the establishment of slow lanes and fast lanes through exclusive and restrictive commercial deals between internet access providers and service providers. With rules protecting access to the internet and others handing over the future of the internet to telcos, it will be up to courts to decide whose interests prevail."