Internet services from abroad are now cheaper. Should we rejoice?

17 July 2017

Internet services from abroad are now cheaper. Should we rejoice?

A few weeks ago new EU rules were introduced making phone calls, text messages and information  sent via the internet  the same price from other member states as they are within the Netherlands. Dutch former European Commissioners Neelie Kroes and Viviane Reding were jubilant:  you see, the EU is there for you too! But dig a little deeper and you’ll find all sorts of exceptions and that the whole thing is pretty complicated. And dig still deeper than that and the question will arise: if there really is a market for telecommunications, why does the EU have to stick its oar in? Isn’t such communication everyone’s right and isn’t it then a service for everyone?

Foto: Europees Parlement

The new roaming rules are explained on an EU website, but none of it is easy to follow. In principle you do indeed pay the same from abroad as you do within the Netherlands, but only for ‘reasonable consumption’.  Spend a few days in Brussels as we in the SP’s European Parliament of course do, and you’ll have to pay the full whack. You’d be well-advised to work out in advance precisely how much that will come to. And it’s also striking how dear it is to phone another member state from the Netherlands. Perhaps this was always the case, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the telecom companies were compensating themselves for the loss of roaming charges by charging more for services within the Netherlands. 

Telephones were once seen as a service for one and all. There was a single provider and the charges were controlled by parliament. Profits were not the main goal, which was rather to ensure that as many people as possible could use the service. Nowadays the Internet should be seen as a basic provision because what can you still do, after all, without it? In my view competition between hinternet providers sjould be abolished. There’s no real competition anyway, because there are so few players.  And trying to work out the best offers and what you can expect to pay is a real head-scratcher.  Abolish competition between these few  firms and we’d no longer need EU rules to control it. But you never see this argument, just the smiling faces of retired Commissioners. It would be a fine thing if we could at last escape from this tunnel vision.

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