Neelie Kroes called European politicians to arms this week to encourage them to back legislation to cut costs for mobile users and ensure a free internet.
The vice president of the European Commission responsible for the digital agenda claimed the European Union (EU) needed “a different and very political discussion about delivering a telecoms single market” across the continent, adding: “I want us to show citizens that the EU is relevant to their lives.”
In a speech to the European Parliament, Kroes pledged that she wanted to end mobile roaming costs and guarantee net neutrality – an open internet with no content being promoted or throttled by governments – by the next European elections, and asked members to help her achieve this by Easter 2014.
“You know me: I am a person of strong opinions and we have not always shared the same opinions,” she said. “But I want you to know that I've been impressed deeply by the commitment of this parliament to telecoms and wider digital issues.”
“You kept fighting for change even when many leaders did not listen or understand. That's impressed me and influenced me in a positive way. I want to channel your knowledge and passion into the legislation needed to deliver a real single market.”
Kroes said the EU was best placed to tackle such issues in telecoms, as “there is no place for borders,” and pan-European solutions were the best way to address them.
“There is no other sector of our incomplete European single market where the barriers are so unneeded, and yet so high,” said Kroes. “The time for change is now.”
Although Kroes said cutting roaming costs and keeping net neutrality would benefit the struggling economy, she felt the moves were “about people rather than numbers,” with any additional legislation helping younger citizens get jobs and older ones stay independent by being online.
“I am not promising a single market package that gives you everything you dreamed of,” she added. “This package will have to strike a sensitive balance if we are to agree it quickly.”
“But I am promising to spend the next 12 months building a bridge with you to our citizens, your constituents. Whether they need it for travel, for trade, or for transactions – our people need this reform.”
Legislation came into force in July 2012 to reduce roaming rates and put caps on what mobile operators could charge citizens using their devices across Europe.