EU’s digital chief is pushing lawmakers to collaborate and hammer down the caps on roaming charges across the EU.
The European Union’s digital chief has made it amply clear that the failure to cross the last remaining hurdle of abolishing mobile roaming charges across the bloc could potentially lead people to question the EU’s ability to deliver on its promise of abolishing the charge by June this year.
The EU’s member states and lawmakers are set to hold a third and likely final round of talks today on lifting limits of wholesale roaming charges that telecom operators have to pay to one another for their customer’s voice calls, data transfer and for sending texts.
This is the last hurdle in a decade long effort by Brussels to abolish retail roaming charges across the European Union, so that citizens can use their phones without incurring any extra costs.
The effort has assumed a critical significance in the wake of Britain voting to quit the bloc, which has resulted in a surge of anti-EU sentiment.
Brussels has to now demonstrate that it works for its ordinary citizens.
However, both sides are yet to come to mutually acceptable terms. While the European Parliament wants to initially enable a cap of just 4 euros ($4) per gigabyte, EU’s member states want to start at 8.5 euros per gigabyte.
Andrus Ansip, the European Commission’s Vice President has written to both sides urging them to collaborate and show “significant flexibility” for reaching a final agreement.
“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,” wrote Ansip.
The difference in the pricing of wholesale roaming caps stems from the wide differences in domestic pricing and travel patterns across the bloc.
While eastern and northern Europe have generous packages which keep wholesale caps at low levels, which effectively subsidises the frequent travels of economically-challenged customers, on the other hand, southern Europe, which is home to tourism, worries that their operators could be forced to hike domestic prices to accommodate the influx of tourists during tourist seasons.
Additionally, in the south, countries are also worried that operators could postpone upgrading their networks for fear of foreign operators gaining cheap access to their infrastructure, and thereby undercut them in the domestic market.