Jon Worth Euroblog

EU analysis, cross-posted to Blogactiv

The European Union has been trying to get rid of roaming charges for mobile phones for years, first for calls and for SMS, and then subsequently for data. One aspect of it is a so called “Fair Use Policy” – i.e. under what terms I can continue to use my mobile abroad in the same way as I can use it at home. The European Commission on Monday this week put forward its draft of these rules, by Wednesday critique was growing (see this from the ALDE Group for example), and by Friday it had been announced that the European Commission had withdrawn the proposal. Juncker, as reported by EU Observer, wanted something better.

The nub of the problem is that the Fair Use Policy draft actually allowed a maximum of 90 days away from ‘home’, with the motivation that if someone was away for longer than that they could get a mobile phone plan where they were. This struck me as a ludicrous suggestion – I am away from Germany for more than 90 days a year, but I am in no one other country for more than 90 days. Others on Twitter wondered how this would apply to pensioners with second homes, or to truck drivers. Plus other law with regard to residence sets the limit at 183 days – i.e. half of the year, so why not the case with this?

So how then do the press react?

Now I would probably not expect anything better from journalists from The Times (Waterfield) or Daily Mail (Stevens), but even the FT (Robinson) is getting in on the act of attacking this. Waterfield’s tweet is typically snooty.

No, all of you, the problem here is the opposite of the way you are describing it. The reason the proposal was so damned restrictive in the first place is because of the cosy relationship between the big telcos and the two Commissioners in charge of digital, Ansip and Oettinger. Both are even speakers at a FT hosted event on 27th September that’s run together with – you guessed it – ETNO, the European Telecommunications Network Operators’ Association. Oh, and what’s in the ETNO response to the European Commission consultation on fair use and roaming? Loads of references to restrictions based on numbers of days. PDF of their response here. That numbers of days limits seem to be favoured by telcos rather seems to have escaped Robinson.

The issue then is not with people on Twitter making a fuss (and indeed the fuss had to be public, because we don’t have the access behind closed doors), but the issue actually starts far earlier – telcos enjoy a relationship with both the EU institutions and, it seems, with part of the Brussels press corps, that is far too cosy. But of course, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you, do you? Attacking Juncker or the Erasmus generation is just that much more fun.

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