The Beginning of the End of Roaming

So I was trolling vice-president Ansip on Twitter… no, really – when the news of 30/90 days of free roaming broke earlier this week, I could not resist to ask the vice-president if the same would apply to cross-border portability of content services.


The answer came fast and clear:


And then the tail of Digital Single Market-believers jumped on the opportunity to explain that the idea of the DSM is to make it possible for consumers to bring their content services with them when they travel. Which of course is completely superfluous information for anyone who has followed this conversation for more than ten seconds. Yes, I know that is the idea! But the question remains what temporary residence means in practice and previously the vice-president has refused to give a definition. But the problem for telecoms that somebody may get a SIM-card in a cheaper place and use it across Europe, which in turn may force the subscription charges up rather than down, is very similar to that of content providers. Why sign up in your high-purchasing power home country when less fortunate member states provide same content at bottom-Euro? And to vice-president Ansip’s tweet-reply, it’s not about the cost but about the price. Of course there is a consumer interest in bringing content services on the road, but that is not the only consumer interests. Consumers also want tailored, localized content in their own language with access to a customer service in their own language, marketed in a way that works in their own country at a price point that is reasonable to the income level in their country. All of those things are important, but with no limit on cross-border portability, they may become difficult or impossible. So does portability trump everything else? Of course not, and the Commission knows this. That is why it says temporary residence. Which again begs the question of what temporary residence means…

If you thought this was fun, all of it was turned on its head today when President Juncker in a surprise move withdrew the proposal to almost end roaming, telling his Commissioners to come back with a “better text”. (Surely, he’s not talking about the spelling…)

To paraphrase a great man:

Now this is not the end (of roaming). It is not even the beginning of the end (of roaming). But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning (of roaming).