Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice president, launched an offensive at the telecoms sector on Thursday, aiming to guarantee net neutrality in Europe, bring an end to mobile roaming costs and establish a single telecoms market.
The latest EU rules let governments regulate their national telecoms markets differently, meaning telecoms firms face fragmented markets and can determine prices based on each country's competitive landscape. A single telecoms market would allow telecoms firms to compete with each other throughout Europe, and Kroes has been campaigning for such a system since 2010.
In a speech to members of the European Parliament, Kroes said: "In telecoms, of all sectors, there is no place for borders. It's called a world wide web for a reason. There is no other sector of our incomplete European single market where the barriers are so unneeded, and yet so high."
According to a Financial Times report in April, a blueprint for a single telecoms market will be published this year, with hopes that regulations can be implemented by the end of the year. A single European telecoms market will pave the way for net neutrality regulation and the end to mobile roaming costs.
The idea of net neutrality at its most basic is an internet where all traffic is treated equally, even though some websites or web applications such as video may use more bandwidth, or be more demanding on networks. The European Parliament made a resolution in November 2011 to protect net neutrality in all nation states but has not yet been given the authority to enforce the policy.
While the Netherlands became the first EU country to adopt net neutrality laws in May 2012, the policy is at odds with the UK government's stance. So far the UK government has supported the view that as long as ISPs are open about network policies, the power is in the hands of consumers to either go with tiered services or take their business elsewhere.
Meanwhile Kroes' plans to end mobile roaming costs in Europe will build on the work the European Parliament has already done to lower mobile phone voice and data roaming charges across the continent and the UK. From 1 July 2012 the European Union introduced regulation that put price caps on data roaming, saving the average business £850 a year.
"I want us to show citizens that the EU is relevant to their lives. That we made the digital rules catch up with their legitimate expectations," said Kroes in her speech. "I want you to be able to go back to your constituents and say that you were able to end mobile roaming costs. I want you to be able to say that you saved their right to access the open internet, by guaranteeing net neutrality."
Kroes is also currently campaigning on Twitter for such policies.
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