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Europe abolishes roaming charges, approves 'net neutrality', but not everybody happy


Europe's data roaming and net neutrality bill is full of loopholes, critics say.

Europe’s data roaming and net neutrality bill is full of loopholes, critics say.

The European Parliament has voted to approve new rules for internet providers that stop data roaming charges for Europeans as well as making it harder for telcos to favour some data over others. Nevertheless, the legislation is being slammed by net neutrality advocates who say it is filled with loopholes.

Roaming provisions of the legislation ensure that users of a communications service travelling to another EU member state will no longer be slapped with high fees for going abroad. The measure pushes Europe toward greater integration, at least as far as mobile services.

But many net neutrality advocates are portraying the bill’s passage as a defeat for the policy, as the bill was passed with none of the amendments that consumer advocates and tech firms were pushing for in a last-ditch effort this week.

Parliamentarian Julia Reda, of the Pirate Party, said that the changes to roaming did not deliver as they’re dependant on a review that is scheduled to be completed by June 2017. Even after that time, she said, a “fair use” limit would apply to the amount of data Europeans could use outside their home country.

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Additionally, critics said the bill did not do enough to prevent internet providers from classifying favoured types of web traffic as “specialised services” that are more lightly regulated. They also said it gives carriers too much freedom to exempt favoured partners from customer data caps, a practice known as “zero rating.”

The vote will lead to a less competitive internet as broadband providers seek to create paid “fast lanes”, opponents of the bill warned.

Internet providers argued that it was in the “main interest of European consumers” to be able to choose among providers based on quality of service and support for various features such as connected cars or telemedicine. Stronger rules might restrict their ability to differentiate themselves and try different business models, they had previously argued.

The Washington Post, with Fairfax Media



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