Some big advances today in the often frustrating, slow moving world of communications regulation: the European Union has voted in favor of ending mobile roaming charges, and also in favor of guaranteeing net neturality on data networks. The decisions come at a key time when net neutrality is under threat in other big markets like the U.S. Supporters believe they will boost consumer usage of networks and foster more entrepreneurship and innovation in the region.
The changes come as part of a bigger package of rules proposed by EU commissioner Neelie Kroes under the name “Connected Continent,” which also proposed cutting down a lot of the red tape around building out new networks and agreements between carriers. But although that package was only introduced in September 2013, Kroes and others have been talking about reforming individual issues for several years now.
Here’s Kroes’ full statement on the news:
“Today is an excellent day for Europeans.
Today the European Parliament voted to end roaming charges by December 2015, as part of a wider vote in support for the Commission’s legislative package for a “Connected Continent”.
The regulation also guarantees an open internet for all – so called net neutrality.
I could not be more satisfied.
For a year I heard that this day would not happen. It’s happened – we succeeded.
We succeeded in record time, less than a year since I suggested this regulation. Less than six months after it was sent to Parliament.
This vote is the EU delivering for citizens.
This is what the EU is all about – getting rid of barriers to make life easier and less expensive.
We should know what we are buying, we should not be ripped-off, and we should have the opportunity to change our mind. Today’s vote is a win-win, and I thank the rapporteur, Pilar de Castillo, and all those who have worked so hard on delivering it today.
EU Member States will now continue to review the regulation and I expect final agreement by end of 2014.”
The legislation now goes to EU Member States for review. The Commission expects final agreement of the regulation to be reached by end of this year.
Unsurprsingly, groups like the Pirate Party are rejoicing.
“Net Neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic is treated equally without discrimination. It’s this ideal that has been the norm as the internet first developed. In fact this fairness online is a big part of of why small companies have been able to launch innovative services, rapidly establish themselves and compete against big players in the marketplace. Its vital and without it we would all have been worse off,” said Pirate Party European Parliamentary candidate Jack Allnutt in a statement.
More to come.