Regular readers will remember my piece for Trefor.Net last September, where I defined what the average VoIP telco wants from an open internet. I know this article had a readership of at least one, because I saw someone brandishing a print out in Ofcom. Yay me!
Anyway, things have moved on. We had Ed Richards, Ofcom’s CEO, saying they weren’t “waiting for Europe” when Philip Davies MP pressed him on the issue at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee last year (for which Philip earned a nomination as ITSPA’s Members’ Pick at the 2014 Awards) – but Europe aren’t waiting for them earlier.
Last week, the European Parliament voted in favour of the so-called “telecoms package” which includes, amongst proposals regarding a Single Market I have previously slated here and the abolition of roaming fees (which I shall slate below), proposals on Net Neutrality. Before we get too excited, this was only the first reading. The College of Commissioners is about to be disolved, along with the European Parliament for elections and who knows what political landscape will be returned to Brussels in May. It’s not likely to receive much more Parliamentary time until the end of the year now at the earliest, which makes their December 2015 implementation date seem optimistic.
The European Union’s proposals mirror, largely, what ITSPA and the VoIP community would accept (in my view) as a legislative intervention. ISPs cans till offer specialised services to protect business critical applications, or prioritise video on demand, but would not be able to do so to “the detriment of the availability or quality of internet access services” offered to other companies or service suppliers, except for traffic management measures which are “transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate” and “not maintained longer than needed” to protect the integrity of a network.
This is a good step, but I for one, along with ITSPA colleagues and others aren’t waiting for Europe like Ofcom – watch this space for a progress report soon!
Abolition of Roaming Charges
The European logic is rather federalist; it says you should be able to use your phone for the same rates anywhere in Europe for the same price as at home. Aside from the age old rule (which also applies in next generation telecoms – distance is still a factor in signal regeneration, rateable value of fibre etc) that the further a call is conveyed the more it costs, it is wholly illogical to be able to call next door with your mobile for the same rate as calling it from Lithuania, you cannot ignore the basket effect. 26% of socioeconomic group D and E households are mobile only. The reduction of roaming profits to mobile operators leads, in part or in whole, to a waterbedding…. (I almost wrote waterboarding, as that’s what it feels like to deal with a mobile operator’s customer services sometimes)… other products and services will increase in price to compensate for the foregone margin.
So, in short, one consequence of the EU’s proposal is that those that cannot afford to go on holiday in Europe, or those businesses that don’t trade in person in Europe, shall subsidise those that do. That just doesn’t seem right to me.