Nessa Childers, MEP for Dublin, chose not to block the compromise between EU Member States and the European Parliament to abolish roaming surcharges for mobile calls, SMS and internet data and to introduce net neutrality safeguards.
Speaking from Strasbourg, where a final vote was held today in the European Parliament, Ms. Childers described the progress made as important but underwhelming:
“Progressive forces in Parliament had much more ambitious goals in mind for telecoms and the internet across the EU’s internal market, as we showed at the first reading in the Parliament last year.
“However, Member State governments were not persuaded of the merits and practicality of net neutrality safeguards, as they seem quite partial to the arguments put forward by the big telecoms operators.
“We fought over our differences, for the second time over, for three months of negotiations with the Council of EU Ministers so as to usher in, for the very first time, EU-wide net neutrality safeguards.
“We also got the Member State governments to finally commit to a long overdue date to abolish roaming surcharges, which should have been struck down from the Single Market a long time ago.
“Conservatives in Parliament and at national level tend to raise the banner of freedom to do business without hindrance across the EU’s national borders but drag their feet when the profits of big providers are at stake, even when they make no more economic or legal sense.
“It has taken my political group many years of persuasion to introduce progressive roaming caps in successive EU regulation reviews for us to finally have a deadline by which roaming will be scrapped, in mid-June 2017, including a final reduction between next year and abolition on that date.
“Still, we had to accept fair use caveats and special circumstances where companies may need to be able to recover costs, as EU governments insisted.
“On net neutrality, we managed to impose equal internet traffic treatment across all 28 EU countries. No paid prioritisation of internet access services is allowed.
“Specialised services can only be optimised where there is network capacity allowed and they can’t replace normal internet services that are to be treated equally.
“National regulators will be empowered to ban the advantage given to certain, select apps when mobile operators charge consumers no cost for their data use.
“I would have liked to vote for a stronger regulation reform today, but this was the only possible compromise on the table to get EU wide progress.
“Telecoms rules have been reviewed often, in tandem with rapid change in the sector.
“I am confident we will be able to evaluate, build upon and strengthen this reform soon, as innovation in the sector is only bound to accelerate.”