EU Ends Roaming Fees, Pushes Net Neutrality

     (CN) – A key committee of the EU Council on Wednesday signed off on a plan to end mobile roaming fees and make net neutrality the law of the continent.
     The council’s permanent representatives committee – which includes deputies from all 28 member states of the European Union – approved the deal advanced by the European Parliament to end mobile roaming charges by 2017 for all but the most frequent travelers.
     Currently, cellphone users roam each time they leave their home-state network. While present EU law caps the amount service providers can charge for roaming, the fees will drop in 2016 to 5 euro-cents per minute for calls, 2 cents for texts and 5 cents per megabyte of data before going away completely in June 2017.
     Providers will be allowed to charge a small fee to frequent travelers whose roaming goes beyond “fair use,” although the definition of that term must be determined by the European Commission by the end of 2016.
     The agreement will also include provisions for a free and open Internet, commonly known as net neutrality.
     Under the new law, Internet service providers will have to treat all traffic equally and will “enshrine the principle of users’ right to access and distribute content of their choice on the Internet,” the council said in a statement.
     While ISPs will still be able to manage traffic to keep the Internet running, the measures they take must be based on objective technical requirements rather than commercial considerations, the council said.
     Blocking or data throttling will be sharply limited to extreme circumstances – to counter a cyber attack or in cases of exceptional Internet traffic, the council said.
     Net neutrality will officially become EU law in April 2016, after formal approval by the full council and parliament later this year.
     “Enshrining the principle of safeguarding the open internet in EU legislation is no less than a historic step,” said Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel – also the council’s media minister – said. “We preserve the possibility for innovation to happen. This is a future-proof agreement.”

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