Europe has long struggled with how to respond to calls to end mobile roaming fees across the continent. Now, the European Commission has designated June 2017 as the end-date for roaming fees, although doubts remain as to whether that deadline will be upheld.
The European Commission released a statement on June 30 detailing its “proposal for a telecoms single market”. In coordination with the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, the E.C. says that it foresees the end of roaming charges in 2017, meaning that mobile users in the E.U. will pay the same price for the use of their data plans in other countries as they do in their home countries. (It bears noting that the Council had opposed the proposals of the Commission and the Parliament earlier this year, thwarting the policy action that was supposed to eliminate roaming fees in 2015.)
In 2007, regulations throughout Europe began to cap the charges mobile carriers could place on roaming mobile users; there has been a consistent push towards eliminating fees altogether. A 2014 vote in the European Parliament determined that 2015 would be the year of the abolishment of the roaming charge, but a decision on March 4 pushed that end-date to mid-2018. The years spent seesawing on the end of roaming charges have mobile users in the E.U. skeptical of any true end to the fees.
This latest determination by the E.U. also comes before a 2016 review and overhaul of the European telecom markets. The E.U. will aim to reconfigure a few processes, not the least of which is how it auctions off and distributes spectrum — something Europe has been significantly behind on compared to other regions’ wireless progress. (June 30’s compromise also details a projection for future “strong net neutrality rules protecting the right of every European to access internet content, without discrimination”.) The Commission has said it is looking towards creating a “Digital Single Market”. Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said in the statement:
I welcome today’s crucial agreement to finally end roaming charges and establish pragmatic net neutrality rules throughout the EU. Both are essential for consumers and businesses in today’s European digital economy and society. We will build on these important foundations in our forthcoming review of the EU’s telecoms legislation.
Perhaps the combination of policy overhaul for the telecom markets and the open internet will finally drive the end of roaming fees. But, while June 2017 is sooner than reports earlier this year suggested for the mobile roaming fee end-date, at this point Europeans aren’t holding their breath. They’ll believe it when they see it.