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European Parliament Votes For Net Neutrality, Forbids Mobile Roaming Costs 148

Posted by timothy
from the everything-not-expressly-permitted dept.
First time accepted submitter TBerben (1061176) writes "The European Parliament has voted to accept the telecommunications reform bill. This bill simultaneously forbids mobile providers from charging roaming costs as of December 15, 2015 and guarantees net neutrality. Previous versions of the bill contained a much weaker definition of net neutrality, offering exemptions for 'specialized services,' but this was superseded in an amendment (original link, in Dutch) submitted by Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake (liberal fraction). Note that the legislation is not yet definitive: the Council of Ministers still has the deciding vote, but they are expected to follow the EP's vote."
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European Parliament Votes For Net Neutrality, Forbids Mobile Roaming Costs

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  • Re:Cynicism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:03AM (#46648145)

    The mobile provides in much of Europe are in the mid of a race to the bottom for years, whoever raises charges will go bankrupt because everyone will just move to another carrier.

  • Re:Good, I guess (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:05AM (#46648167) Journal
    Net Netrality is less of a problem in Europe. Our ISPs aren't nearly as monopolised as they seem to be in the US. To be honest, I'm not even sure that this is automatically a goood thing. I don't mind my Netflix getting a extra bandwidth, as long as this is bandwidth in addition to what everyone already gets. The problem is establishing whether the high payers are getting extra or everyone else is gettign a reuced service. There's no actually a difference; it just depends what you consider the baseline to be.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:08AM (#46648197)

    Well, I'll be interested in seeing what coverage tourist hotspots will have in the future.. The incumbent operators will have little or no incetive to build out their network capacity/coverage, since the need to upgrade capacity is mainly driven by tourists. Which they will not make much money off anymore.

    Tell me something, are americans subject to roaming charges when going from California to Nevada ? Or Utah ? Or Arizona ? Or Florida ?
    For the EU it's the same thing. Although we are not a federation, and telco companies still think in terms of nation states, one reason for the being of the EU was a common market. And in a common market you cannot have roaming charges just because you happen to go from France to Italy or Germany for example.

  • Re:Cynicism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 91degrees (207121) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:14AM (#46648253) Journal
    Option D: Mobile operators don't make significant losses because roaming charges are a pretty small chunk of their income, and it's offset by increased usage by travellers.
  • Re:Good, I guess (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:19AM (#46648309)

    I'm big on NN, but I do admit there are good points made for market driven forces to allow buildup of delivery services.

    When each ISP is a local monopoly, then there is no market. If every home had a choice of a dozen ISPs, there would be no need for NN. NN is needed to prevent ISPs from abusing their monopoly power.

  • Re:Cynicism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@@@nexusuk...org> on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:27AM (#46648381) Homepage

    Option B : Mobile providers raise the standard charges the exact necessary amount to avoid having losses due to this law.

    Option C : Mobile providers raise the standard charges more than necessary and justify the raise saying ordinary people need to pay for the yuppies who roam Europe in their sports cars while chatting on their phones.

    The rates are largely set by the market - if they could get away with raising their standard rates, don't you think they would have already done so?

    Also, you're ignoring a 4th option: they might actually make more money by having reasonable roaming charges. As an example, on my PAYG contract I pay £0.01/MB while at home, but while on a trip to Canada earlier in the year it would've been £6/MB - *600 times the domestic charge*. The upshot was that I simply turned off 3G on my phone and didn't use it at all - zero profit for the MNO. If the charges had been more reasonable then I probably would've left it turned on and they would've made some money. Same goes for voice calls too. (FWIW, roaming charges within the EU have been regulated for some time and are much much lower anyway)

    This is basically the EU saying "you've shown you can't be trusted to not take the piss, so we're taking our ball and going home".

  • Would you go to a tourist place where your internet that you intend to use to keep in touch with home sucks? Maybe you will, but how many like you?

    Yes, I would. Because oddly, when I'm on holiday I'm actually more interested in doing holiday type stuff than spending my time using the internet. Its useful *occasionally* (getting weather forecasts, etc.) but it's not a huge loss to not have it. Which is why I turn roaming data off on my phone when I go abroad and just use wifi hotspots in cafes, etc. on the occasions I want to use the internet.

  • Re:Good, I guess (Score:5, Insightful)

    by smooth wombat (796938) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:33AM (#46648445) Homepage Journal

    Where I live in the U.S., I have two choices: Comcast or Verizon.

    Both charge $75/month for 15/5 which is the package available.

    You will this situation in many parts of the country where competition is defined as two companies charging the same high price for the same slow speeds.

  • by Zocalo (252965) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @09:50AM (#46648637) Homepage
    That would be excellent if this happened, although unlikely given how much the local population that supports the tourist trade is likely to rely on that same mobile coverage. I go on vacation to *get away* from the daily grind, yet of late it has got to the point that you can't go anywhere without someone yakking on a mobile phone, and I go to some pretty out of the way places to try and make that happen. The absolute last thing you want to hear when you reach Everest Base Camp, slightly out of breath from the lack of oxygen and effort, and are just starting to take in the amazing view is:

    *Latest naff ringtone*
    "Hello...?"
    *pause*
    "Yes, I'm climbing Mount Everest!"

    It kind of ruins the moment, you know?
  • by johnsie (1158363) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:08AM (#46648799)
    The Argentinian economy is still a mess 15 years later. More than half the population there live in extreme poverty. You cannot blame the EU for the Irish and Greeks being irresponsible. That was their fault. They allowed it to happen. The people voted for governments who allowed it to happen. They took all the benefits and didn't pay attention to what was actually happening financially. Things would be alot worse if they, especially Ireland, hadn't received bailout money from EU countries. Greece were a wealthy country maybe a few thousand years ago, but they were pretty poor before this crisis and should never have borrowed such money. Going down the Argentina route wouldn't have helped in any way.
  • Re:Cynicism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bickerdyke (670000) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:15AM (#46648887)

    Sorry, but that's the internal business of orange or Vodafone.

    There WAS a reason, back when phone companies were indeed seperate companies, so the roaming costs were justified for those additional costs for both inter-company and inter-country accounting and banking.

    But the EU did as much as they could to get rid of those additional costs for international business. A company (in ANY business down to a family plumbing business!) can now serve the whole of europe without worrying about different tax, costumer protection, safety, or pipe-gauge regulations. The even invented a whole new currency for a bunch of countries, just to make business easier.

    At the same time, a wave of mergers hit the cellphone market with a few big players being active in every european country. ALSO to save money and getting rid of that internal accounting.

    If they're still loosing money for "coordinating internal records", it's their own fault and nothing that would justify roaming charges.

  • by Sique (173459) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:18AM (#46648923) Homepage
    In a free country, everything the government does, can be spelled as "The goverment forbids...", because in a free country, everything is allowed except for the things that are explicitely forbidden.

    Only if it was forbidden before, the government actually can allow something.

  • Re:Cynicism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raju1kabir (251972) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @10:19AM (#46648933) Homepage

    increased usage means more cost for the provider. How does that offset the income loss?

    Let's say the carrier currently charges EUR 1/MB for a service that costs them EUR 0.02/MB to provide, and customers use 1 million megabytes. That's EUR 20,000 in costs and EUR 980,000 in profit.

    Then they are forced to charge their domestic rate of EUR 0.10/MB for roaming data, and customers stop being stingy and use 20 million megabytes. That's EUR 400,000 in costs and EUR 1,600,000 in profit.

    Obviously these numbers are plucked straight from my ass but surely you can see how it's possible. Roaming charges are almost pure profit as it is, and that's only possible because we're a captive market.

    P.S. What is up with Slashdot still not being able to display the Euro symbol (â)? This is 2014, isn't it?

  • Re:Good, I guess (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Solandri (704621) on Thursday April 03, 2014 @03:57PM (#46652477)

    I'm big on NN, but I do admit there are good points made for market driven forces to allow buildup of delivery services. That breaks down with the lack of competition at the ISP level. I assume its similar in Europe as the US.

    It's not just lack of competition at the ISP level. Poorly thought out government-imposed standards can have the same effect too. When digital cell phone service rolled out, Europe mandated all carriers use GSM. GSM uses TDMA - it allocates a fixed timeslice to each user. During your phone's timeslice, the tower is yours and yours alone. This works fine for voice, since voice data has a fixed maximum bandwidth. But it becomes a real problem for data because you're wasting bandwidth by allocating it to phones which aren't actually using it during their timeslice.

    The U.S. didn't mandate GSM. Consequently it ended up with both GSM and CDMA carriers. CDMA doesn't allocated a fixed bandwidth block to each phone. All phones are allowed to transmit simultaneously (each phone uses orthogonal codes which uniquely identify them), and their bandwidth is set by the noise floor (i.e. other phones' transmissions). So the bandwidth available to each phone automatically scales based on the number of phones communicating with the tower at any given time. If there are 20 phones transmitting or receiving, each gets 1/20th the bandwidth. If there's just one phone, it gets all the bandwidth.

    So CDMA scales beautifully with number of phones, while GSM does not scale at all. Consequently the CDMA carriers were the first to roll out 2g service. There was no way to fix GSM for data. They had to add on a different standard for data, which most carriers implemented with CDMA or wideband CDMA. That's right, the HSDPA data service on most 3g GSM phones was actually CDMA. That's why you could browse the web and talk on a GSM phone at the same time - it had one TDMA radio for voice, and a second CDMA radio for data. CDMA phones couldn't do that (unless they supported voice over IP) because they only had one CDMA radio for both.

    CDMA was the better technology and it won the standards war. GSM was well-intentioned (I still think the SIM card idea is best for customers), but lack of foresight among the standard-makers could have hobbled the development of cellular data services. Fortunately the U.S. refused to require carriers use GSM, and instead let the market decide. Which it did, with CDMA emerging as the winner. (It's being replaced by LTE, which uses OFDMA - similar concept to CDMA but in the frequency domain instead of the code domain. It just requires more CPU power than CDMA, which wasn't possible on battery-limited mobile devices until recently. 802.11ac also uses OFDMA.)

    For net neutrality though, I don't think this applies. We're not talking about how a service transmits its bits to an ISP. We're talking about what and how much the service transmits to the ISP. As long as the service is not transmitting more than the bandwidth the customer has paid for, there is no justification for throttling it. If the ISP has a problem with too many customers using a lot of bandwidth because of Netflix, that's something they need to take up with their customers, not with Netflix.

    The ISP signed a contract with their customers agreeing to provide x Mbps of bandwidth. If they're unable to provide it at the price point they agreed to, that's between them and the customer. Netflix plays no role in it. In fact if the ISP wants to save on upstream bandwidth by having Netflix content hosted locally, they should have to pay Netflix for this privilege. The fact that the opposite is happening and Netflix is paying the ISPs is entirely an artifact of the monopoly these ISPs were given by their local governments.

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