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Telecoms Single Market Regulation gets through committee

“European Parliament committee vote takes us one step closer to ending roaming charges in the EU,” trumpets an official press release from the European Commission.

It’s not what they put in these things, it’s what they leave out. Today’s ‘vote’ by the industry committee wasn’t really about the roaming charges part of Neelie Kroes’ Telecoms Single Market Regulation, although you’d never know it by reading most of the comment. Ending high roaming charges is like opposing child abuse: all politicians know where they stand on that one.

And the votes against didn’t signify opposition to “coordinating spectrum licensing for wireless broadband” and “provisions to make it easier for consumers to switch service providers,” either. So what caused the relatively close vote of 30 for, 12 voted against, and 14 abstained? Why was there obvious dissent?

The elephant being smuggled through the room is the net neutrality ‘compromise’ and quite a number of these committee members are unhappy with it. Although the wording has been changed, the package still offers an escape-hatch for telcos wanting to gate-keep their networks and to charge upstream like oversexed sockeye salmon - thus undermining the basic principles of the Internet by creating a two-tier network.

You thought the Neelie Kroes measures were all about ‘safeguarding’ the open Internet? As we pointed out from the start of this process, Neelie Kroes has talked up the package’s measures for banning throttling and blocking, while slipping through the big one: specialised services.

Allowing these will mean the operators, if so minded, wouldn’t have to block or throttle because they can discriminate openly by offering these prioritised services to ‘partners’. The Telecoms Regulation is now due to be voted by all MEPs on 3 April. In the mean time the EU member states are in the process of discussing the regulation in working groups. Final agreement is expected by end of 2014 (if the commission gets its way).

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