EU delivers on Net Neutrality promises, scraps roaming charges to sweeten the deal

Changes to legislation means ISPs will have to treat all forms of data equally

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The Independent Tech

Nigel Farage might not think much of the EU but today the European Parliament has delivered two important pieces of legislation to help protect consumers.

Firstly, MEPs voted to end mobile roaming fees in all EU member states from 15 December next year and secondly, a clutch of net neutrality laws have been introduced to ensure that ISPs can’t give preferential treatment to different types of traffic.

The first decision is good news for any consumers who have found themselves at the receiving end of an unexpected phone bill, but will frustrate the network operators who have profited from the charges.

These companies have argued that removing these charges will hurt their profits and ultimately the service that they can offer, but the decision found overwhelming support from MEPs who voted in favour of the changes 534 to 25.

"This vote is the EU delivering for citizens. This is what the EU is all about – getting rid of barriers to make life easier and less expensive,” said EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, who has long been campaigning for a single mobile phone market across the EU.

"Nearly all of us depend on mobile and internet connections as part of our daily lives. We should know what we are buying, we should not be ripped-off, and we should have the opportunity to change our mind.”

The same vote also went some way to secure net neutrality in the EU, a concept that was defined in the legislation as “the principle according to which all internet traffic is treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference”.

For advocates of net neutrality this means that ISPs won’t be able to introduce any pay-to-prioritize schemes, where big companies squeeze out innovative start-ups by paying a premium to have their services delivered more quickly.

The laws do allow for ISPs to set-up some “specialized services” that are given preferential treatment, but only when this does not affect “the availability or quality of internet access services”. This puts companies in the EU in a very different position to those in the US, where high-intensity users of bandwidth like Netflix have to pay extra to ISPs to deliver their services.

For consumers this means less chance of subscription services of this sort raising the price of their subscriptions in order to compensate for ISPs charges, although internet providers can always just increase the cost to the user themselves.