EC Vice President Calls For An End To Mobile Phone Roaming Charges

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Neelie Kroes has called on the European Parliament to end regional mobile roaming surcharges

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes has called for the ending of mobile roaming charges in Europe, and the availability of an open and free internet by guaranteeing net neutrality.

Kroes, a highly influential figure responsible for the Digital Agenda within the European Commission, issued her political rallying cry in a speech on Thursday to the European Parliament.

Rallying cry

“I want you to be able to go back to your constituents and say that you were able to end mobile roaming costs,” Kroes told MEPs. “I want you to be able to say that you saved their right to access the open internet by guaranteeing net neutrality. I want you to be able to say we took real action on cybercrime and other threats.”

Kroes said that she expects to be able to deliver this package around Easter 2014. “It will be good for Europe,” she said. “Good for the economy, yes – growth stimulated by breaking down barriers.”

She believes the young generation needs a strong, digital economy to escape the unemployment trap, while the older population needs new digital services to stay healthy and active without losing their independence.

“If we do this right, then digital connections can bring political connections,” she said. “Digital dividends can bring social ones.”

Kroes highlighted the importance of telecoms as the glue that binds the multiple regions and people of Europe together. “Telecoms touches everything – and users are developing massive expectations of it,” she said. “Markets must function, devices must function, networks must function, and investment needs to happen. We can’t afford today’s countless, needless, artificial obstacles placed in the way.”

“In telecoms, of all sectors, there is no place for borders,” she said. “It’s called a WorldWide Web for a reason. The time for change is now.”

Regulatory Fight

Despite the fine sounding rhetoric, Kroes has a real fight on her hands to drive through her proposals. The European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association (Etno) told TechweekEurope that its position on the whole matter was made clear earlier this week when it strongly objected to more “regulatory obligations”.

“Etno strongly believes that the Single Market should not be imposed through additional regulatory obligations,” a spokesperson said. “The single market should be driven by market forces, enabled by an investment-friendly and supportive regulatory framework.”

Etno instead called for a “full revision” of the telecoms regulatory framework.

“European telecommunications service and infrastructure providers recognise the importance of the ongoing discussion on the need for a single European market for digital services,” Etno said. “Investment in Europe is lagging behind other developed economies. This is partly due to fragmented markets and partly due to an unpredictable and non-harmonised regulatory environment which still favours access seekers over investors, focuses mainly on the number of players in the market as an indicator for competition, and places too little attention to a sustainable market structure. This negatively influences investments in networks.”

This first appeared on TechWeekEurope UK. Read the whole story here.