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January 31, 2017

EU Digital Chief: Decade old data roaming promise must serve public

In a process that has taken almost 10 years, the finish line is in sight for a single data roaming charge across the EU, provided it's members can agree on a pricing point.

By Joe Clark

European Union members and lawmakers are to hold a third round of talks today, Tuesday 31st, discussing a single data roaming charge across the EU.

The main issue to be resolved is a set caps for telcom companies on roaming charges when customers abroad make calls, send texts, or use the internet.

The EU has been attempting to allow citizens to use their phones abroad without exuberant price increases for almost ten years and have set a deadline of June 15th.

Currently the main point of contention remains the price point, with two factions debating what the data roaming charge should be. The European Parliament itself believes that pricing should start at an initial 4 euros per gigabyte but some member states have called for 8.5 per gigabyte.

Data roaming

European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip

Given recent anti-EU sentiment across the continent, European Commission Vice President Andrus Ansip said: “If no political compromise can be achieved next Tuesday, people will rightly question our common will and ability to deliver on our promise to them. That is a risk we should not run.”

A North-South divide has also been a large part of the problem for many EU states. Southern Europe, which relies more heavily on the tourist industry worry that the seasonal tourist increases would force operators to raise domestic prices. They also worry that it would discourage local operators from investing in infrastructure if foreign operators can use this infrastructure with cheaper rates.

In Northern and Eastern Europe, member states are against telcom companies raising prices in their domestic markets as they already have low domestic prices. Raising these prices could lead to poorer customers helping to pay for frequent travellers.

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Mr Ansip also called on both sides to show “significant flexibility” regarding the issue as with Britain’s decision to leave the EU last year, there is a growing feeling that the Union is inadequate when dealing with matters that directly affect it’s citizens.

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