27/10/2015 13:27 GMT | Updated 27/10/2015 15:59 GMT

Data Roaming Ban Legislation Approved By EU Parliament But At The Cost Of Net Neutrality

The European Parliament has approved legislation abolishing data roaming charges and rejected pleas from protestors calling for a change to the bill's stance on net neutrality.


The vote took place at the European Parliament building in Strasbourg.

While the ban which will be enforced from 15 June 2017 will come as good news to holiday makers, the vote has done nothing to appease the worries of protestors who believe the bill could make the internet a very unfair playing field -- essentially making it easier for rich firms to pay and ensure their data is treated differently from others.

Net neutrality is a phrase that refers to how internet traffic is treated. The idea is, that your Internet Service Providers should treat data equally, regardless of where it is from or what it is.

What this typically means in practice is that video platforms such as Netflix shouldn't have to pay a fee to ensure that its data reaches you promptly.


As it stands, the legislation does state that ISPs can not pay to prioritise their data and use "fast lanes" which would allow you access certain types of information more quickly.

However, tucked away in the bill is an exception to this rule, namely "specialised services," which includes health care services such as such as telesurgery.

Experts worry that the current legislation makes it easy for any company to use the umbrella term "specialised services" for just about anything, allowing bigger firms with more money to drown out smaller startups.

Among those watching today's vote is Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.

tim berners lee

Commenting on what MEPS should insist on, when analysing amendments to the bill, he stated:

"Fast lanes will make it harder for anyone who can’t pay extra fees — start-ups, small businesses, artists, activists, and educators in Europe and around the globe — to reach Europeans online.

"MEPs should vote for the amendments that close the so-called “specialized services” loophole to prevent the creation of online fast lanes and keep the Internet a level playing field."

Other key aspects to the bill includes a concept call "zero-rating" which allows ISPs to exempt certain content from its monthly bandwidth cap - otherwise known as data cap that seeks to limit the amount of data transferred over a period of time.

Mr Berners-Lee that allowing such as practice to continue would be a form of "economic discrimination" as "ISPs will still be able to pick winners and losers online."

All of the above aspects of the legislation, have a bearing on how you use the internet on a day-to-day basis.

While the proposed cap on data roaming charges will make roaming 75 percent cheaper in the EU and will undoubtedly come as good news to travellers, the bigger issue is how the bill could affect how and what we access over the internet.