EU issues warning to telecoms firms: Roaming fees are on way out, says commissioner: Industry told not to pick apart planned charges
(Guardian (UK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The ailing telecoms industry in Europe will not be allowed to pick apart a regulatory shift being planned in Brussels to abolish mobile roaming charges and enforce a single market in mobile, internet and broadband services, the EU commission warned yesterday.
Neelie Kroes, the commissioner for digital affairs, threw down the gauntlet to telecoms executives and lobbyists who are mounting fierce resistance to her campaign to enforce a single trans-national market in mobile phone and internet services.
"You can't pick which bits you want from the menu. This isn't a restaurant," she told a Brussels conference a month after tabling proposals to abolish mobile roaming charges across the EU by 2016.
The proposal is strongly contested by the industry, which argues that it will lose money and that badly needed investment revenue will disappear.
The proposals are to be discussed by national leaders at an EU summit this month. Kroes could run into trouble there too, with leaders trying to protect national industries and dilute the project.
The British government regards the commission's draft as a regulatory power grab by Brussels, and David Cameron is expected to resist the full impact of the Kroes proposals.
The industry's lobby has produced a study claiming the reforms, especially the abolition of roaming charges, will cost the sector euros 7bn (nearly pounds 6bn) by 2020.
Kroes, who is also vice-president of the European commission, is aiming to get the package endorsed by the summit this month and pushed through the European parliament before the European elections next May.
Kroes said: "Which of you honestly thinks that roaming surcharges within Europe will still be around in three years? Which of you thinks your customers would long tolerate an internet service where you decide what they can or can't access? Which of you in this audience thinks that you can sustain a business model which consists of charging over the odds for intra-European calls and texts, beyond 2016? . . . roaming is on its way out, one way or the other."
Abolishing roaming charges was needed to remove single-market barriers and to produce a level playing field and consistent net neutrality rules across the EU, Kroes declared. "This is a package. You can't take it apart."
She dismissed concerns about the impact on investment, arguing that investment would come less from the firms themselves than from the financial markets.
She strongly criticised the telecoms sector and added that a big London-based bank had voiced support for her recommendations.
"We all know today's gloomy outlook for telecoms in Europe. Revenues down, investments weak, expansion unattractive. You face many barriers, and can't reach the scale to compete globally, while ordinary users just see poor connectivity, a narrow range of choices, and continued reminders of national borders.
"The telecoms sector will ultimately benefit from this package. But that is not why I'm doing it. I'm doing it for European growth and European jobs - the 1% of GDP we could gain with a true telecoms single market."
Reforms to phone and internet ser vices, pushed by Neelie Kroes, left, are being strongly resisted by the telecoms industry
(c) 2013 Guardian Newspapers Limited.
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