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EU lawmakers delay vote on scrapping roaming fees by 2015

A man talks by a mobile phone as he walks past the Samsung stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona February 24, 2014. REUTERS/Albert
A man talks by a mobile phone as he walks past the Samsung stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona February 24, 2014. REUTERS/Albert

By Foo Yun Chee and Leila Abboud

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU lawmakers postponed a planned vote on Monday on scrapping mobile phone roaming charges by 2015 and preventing telecoms network operators from charging companies such as Google and Amazon to provide faster web services.

Officials from the European Parliament said the committee vote, one step in a series which could lead to changes in EU rules, was delayed for procedural reasons. A new date will be set in the coming days.

The proposals from the European Parliament's industry committee go far beyond European Telecoms Commissioner Neelie Kroes's plans to overhaul the EU telecoms industry, which include ending roaming fees by 2016.

If implemented, they could hit Europe's telecoms providers which are struggling to lift their revenues, down for the fifth consecutive year.

"Roaming providers shall not levy any surcharge (from December 15, 2015) in comparison to the charges for mobile communications services at domestic level on roaming customers in any member states for any regulated roaming call made or received," the committee said in a proposal document seen by Reuters.

It said roaming charges for sending text messages and for using any regulated data roaming services should also be phased out by the same deadline.

The committee could side with proponents of net neutrality, concerned that telecoms companies might block or slow access to content on the Internet or charge content providers more for delivering their services at faster speeds.

"Where such agreements are concluded with the provider of internet access, that provider should ensure that the enhanced quality service does not cause material detriment to the general quality of Internet access," the document said.

Telecoms operators, some of whom might already have such deals, said industry sources, are opposed to the proposed rule.

"The principle that all types of Internet traffic have to be treated equally is at odds with the way in which the Internet works today, as different types of traffic have different requirements and need to be managed efficiently," Luigi Gambardella, head of the European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association (ETNO), said.

ETNO, whose members include Orange, Telecom Italia, Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica but not Vodafone, conveyed its criticism jointly with the GSMA, the worldwide mobile operators' lobbying group, to Kroes and the committee.

For the proposals to become law, they would need the blessing of the full parliament, once they are approved in a committee vote, and of the EU's 28 governments.

(Editing by Justyna Pawlak and David Evans)

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