EU Commission presents plan to overhaul the bloc's telecommunications sector, including putting an end to roaming charges and internet availability to all citizens.
BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (REUTERS) - The European Commission on Thursday (September 12) proposed a price cap on cross-border phone calls in Europe and asked for veto power over sales of mobile spectrum, as part of a fresh attempt to overhaul the bloc's telecommunications sector.
Other elements of the proposals include cutting red tape for operators with cross-border businesses, allowing providers to charge more for carrying data-heavy services at high speeds and harmonising the sales of lucrative mobile spectrum by EU countries.
The plan, presented by EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes, would cap the cost of cross-border phone calls in Europe at the price of a long-distance domestic call and also limit, to 19 cents a minute, the price for users making calls on a mobile phone while travelling in Europe. Charges for receiving calls would also be scrapped.
"The first step is to ban incoming call charges from 2014. I am not certain what your feeling is, but I think that that is absolutely a must. It is so crazy to say that with an incoming call there is a charge for you. The second new step is to offer companies a cheaper way to deliver EU- wide roam like at home, and that is a line, please keep that in mind 'roam like at home'," Kroes said.
She added the package would help customers escape the sky-high roaming prices, because it would allow them to chose the domestic price plan from the country they are travelling in, without having to get a new number.
The plan also proposes to introduce so-called net neutrality to Europe, meaning that all data on the internet should be treated equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site or platform.
"We want all the Europeans to have guaranteed right to full and open internet and if you are aware that at the moment 96 percent of Europeans lack that today. Blocking and throttling are wide-spread across the EU, just to translate it in figures 200 million of Europeans are affected," Kroes said.
The proposals are intended to encourage telecom companies to invest more in broadband networkinfrastructure to ensure that European citizens can download data from the Internet as quickly as their counterparts in Asia and North America.
"If you are combining Japan, South Korea and the United States, we are talking about the combination of the same population as Europe has, so it has the same number of clients so to say, but those three together have of eight times more fixed fibre broadband and almost 15 times more 4G. And the gap is growing, I assure you, everyday the gap is growing and Europe will certainly lose if we don't also change," she said.
The Commission said it also hopes that limiting costs in the bloc, where international mobile calls vary from 35 cents to 1.19 euros per minute, will benefit businesses. It said a projected 0.5 percent fall in operators' revenues would be offset by more usage.
The Commission also said it would seek feedback on the possibility of creating a single EU regulator for the industry, a sensitive issue for countries wary of losing power to the European Union's executive.