Andrus Ansip (pictured), the European Commission’s vice-president for the digital single market, laid into Europe’s national governments for not supporting the complete abolition of roaming fees, scoffing at the compromise position adopted by the council of ministers earlier this month.
“I cannot support the very limited basic allowance of council’s current reply to people’s call for the complete abolition of roaming charges – it is a joke,” he said at a European Voice event held in Brussels. “We must definitely go further. We should remember our ultimate aim: the full and swift abolition of roaming surcharges – and not only their reduction.”
The council’s position is that mobile operators would only have to provide a small ‘basic allowance’ for roaming, but then could charge fees beyond that.
Ansip’s comments come against a backdrop of negotiations – “after months of waiting” – between EU member states and the European parliament on establishing a single digital market in Europe.
“Regulatory differences prevent us from making the most of a pan-European telecoms market where consumers could obtain services from operators present in the EU – regardless of borders – and operators could offer services across different EU countries,” said Ansip. “Much of this could be solved with the telecom single market proposals.”
Roaming is one of three key areas that Ansip wants to address – the other two are greater coordination on spectrum allocation and stronger net neutrality rules.
EU member states, however, removed the EC’s provisions on broadband spectrum allocation, which were part of the original telecoms package put forward by the commission last year.
“As you may have noticed, spectrum is still on [the Commission’s] agenda – but not on that of EU member states,” Ansip ruefully noted. “This is despite the significance, ambition and urgency that EU heads of state [and government] gave to the single telecoms market back in October 2013.”
He made the argument that spectrum is the “oxygen for the internet”, and that the more divided it is, the less efficient it becomes.
“We need spectrum for our digital economy to grow with the internet of things and the advent of 5G,” he said.
Ansip also criticised member states for watering down provisions that would have prevented telecom operators from giving favourable treatment for broadband speeds to certain companies.
“We need to make sure that the internet is not splintered apart by different rules,” he said. “This is why we need common rules for net neutrality. Then, we need an open internet for consumers. No blocking or throttling.”