The European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Rights (IMCO) voted Thursday for a proposal for a “Telecoms Single Market” that would eliminate many of the cross-border barriers to internet and mobile communication – and enforce net neutrality.
Originally proposed by Neelie Kroes, EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda, the Telecoms Single Market essentially removes an ISP’s ability to discriminate on connection speeds, quality of service, or block applications and services.
The definitions of “reasonable traffic management” and “specialized services” have been updated to mean that some traffic will of lower priority such as machine-to-machine communications that might not be time-sensitive, but also that services like IPTV could get priority. This is meant to help network providers better balance traffic and prevent network congestion.
However, some groups, such as savetheinternet.eu, have said Kroes’ proposal for net neutrality law in the EU has “several problematic loopholes” that stand in the way of true net neutrality.
Kroes also includes in her proposal fairer prices on phone services, including doing away with “international call” rates and roaming charges within the EU.
Many say, however, that provisions are needed to encourage telecoms to expand and upgrade European network infrastructure. And there are some provisions in place that could make telecoms more profitable, such as allowing operators to charge more for better services.
Of course, this might mean higher prices for consumers, but not necessarily, as Kroes argued in a July 2013 speech. She notes that a single market makes companies compete on the same level, creating a “market where consumers enjoy choice and competition, not borders and barriers.”
According to The Economist, analysts believe that loosening regulations around mergers and allowing EU companies to operate across borders more easily might also be an important way to reduce fragmentation in Europe.
After gaining the acceptance of the IMCO, the Telecoms Single Market proposal is still subject to two votes: one in the Civil Liberties Committee on Feb. 12, and then a final vote in the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy on Feb. 27.