The End of Roaming Means… Geo-blocking

Today, June 15th 2017 is the end of roaming in the European Digital Single Market. A big step for the European Union, but telecom operators are not thrilled to see a big source of revenue go away. No longer will the European telephone subscribers have to pay extra for calls to other member states. At least in theory.

The telecoms have in part pre-empted this policy: this writer has used a European subscription for years, paying extra for a flat rate in Europe. But perhaps the EU telephone subscribers are not as concerned about roaming as European policy-makers, telecoms lobbyists (or this writer for that matter) may think. A telecoms analyst tells New York Times cell phone roaming is an issue “for the few, not for the many”.

Telecoms have come up with innovative interpretations to circumvent the end of roaming. One is to simply exclude data-roaming from subscriptions, another to increase subscription fees across the board, yet another to decrease the monthly amount of data included in the subscription plan. While changes to the terms normally allows subscribers to change or cancel subscriptions, it appears that few have exercised that right.

The Commissioner for the Digital Single Market, Vice President Andrus Ansip, says no company should use this as an excuse to raise prices and that “the rules are strict – and will be strictly applied”. But it appears the EU telecoms watchdog BEREC is of a different opinion. National regulators are “not in the business of regulating retail prices” said its chairman last week.

Ironically, the end of roaming may mean more revenue for telecoms, stricter terms for subscribers, higher prices on cross-border data and in practice geo-blocking. Who said policy-making was easy?

Image Caption:

Berlaymont Architects: André and Jean Polak, Jean Gilson, Lucien De Vestel; Renovation: Berlaymont 2000