Taking your favorite Android phone on a tour around Europe is set to get a whole lot more affordable, with the European Parliament giving initial approval to legislation limiting roaming fees for voice, SMS, and data across the EU. The vote on the draft also includes a nod to net neutrality, with lawmakers voting to include rules that would prevent internet providers from blocking or slowing Skype or other VoIP services.
ISPs would "still be able to offer specialized services of higher quality" the EU clarifies, including video-on-demand and "business-critical data-intensive 'cloud' (data storage) applications." However, providing those services would not be allowed to have a knock-on slowing affect on others.
In fact, despite that flexibility, ISPs would have even fewer reasons to limit connection speed under the modified rules, which saw ministers pare back some from the "OK" list. In effect, deliberate slowing or blocking would only be allowed in order to enforce a court order, to preserve network security, or to prevent temporary network congestion.
"MEPs underline that internet access should be provided in accordance with the principle of "net neutrality", which means that all internet traffic is treated equally, without discrimination, restriction or interference, independently of its sender, recipient, type, content, device, service or application"
As for roaming charges, the EU wants any extra fees for placing a call, sending a text message, or accessing the internet to be done away with as of December 15th, 2015. That would apply to any cellphone account used in another European member state (though not, of course, to a device with North American service taken to Europe).
Capped charges could still be leveled if roaming services "are abused" it's suggested, but only in exceptional circumstances.
The draft "telecoms package" and roaming fee abolishment will now go forward to the next Parliament, with a new batch of MEPs expected to be elected in May 2014.
Cross-European parity on tech equipment and services has been a key push by the EC over the past years, also affecting how smartphones and cellphones are charged. Last month, the Parliament backed a universal charger connecting, opting for microUSB.