Capping two years of sometimes contentious negotiations, European Union (EU) lawmakers agreed Tuesday to enact rules that require broadband network operators to adhere to tenets of net neutrality and that also terminate mobile roaming charges throughout the EU effective in mid-2017.
Adopted during a “trialogue” meeting among members of the European Commission (EC), the European Parliament (EP) and representatives of EU states, the rules require final approval by the EP and by EU member governments before they are entered into law. Ending years of progressive reductions in EU roaming charges, the new roaming regulation caps rates at €0.05 (U.S. $0.06) per minute for voice calls, €0.05 per megabyte for mobile data, and €0.02 (U.S. $0.02) per SMS message effective in April 2016 before roaming rates are scrapped altogether in June 2017. To combat fraud and abuse, the new rules also include a fair use policy that allows operators to prevent subscribers from registering their wireless devices in another EU nation where mobile rates may be lower.
While the new net neutrality mandate parallels the FCC’s Open Internet rules in prohibiting discriminatory treatment of lawful web traffic, the EU rules are considered to be less strict than those enacted in the U.S. Unlike the rules adopted by the FCC earlier this year, the EU measure permits carriers and broadband ISPs to offer websites faster connections for “specialized services,” such as online streaming, as long as the transmission speeds of individual web users are not affected. ISPs will also be allowed to block or restrict web traffic in certain, limited instances that include traffic management and responses to cyberattacks. In a statement describing the new rules, the EC maintained, “it’s not a question of fast and slow lanes as paid prioritization is not allowed, but of making sure all needs are served.”