data roaming

On 12 September, 2013, the European Commission formally adopted a proposal for a new Telecommunications Regulation (the “Regulation”).  The Regulation would, if enacted, reform the European Union’s telecommunication rules, including in areas such as net neutrality, spectrum allocation, roaming charges, and consumer rights in mobile and telecoms contracts.  The proposal is now being considered by the European Parliament and Council. 

This post, on reforms publicized as “consumer rights”, is the second part of a series on key aspects of the proposed Regulation.

The Regulation proposes a number of measures designed to strengthen the rights of European consumers in the telecoms and Internet access markets.  If enacted, the proposals, which are described further below, will phase-out roaming charges within the EU, compel telecoms companies and Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) to provide more information to consumers about service levels, and will make it easier for consumers to switch providers.  In the short run, the measures are anticipated to hit revenues for telecoms companies (the Commission estimates an average annual loss of around 0.5% in revenue), but the Commission claims the benefits to consumers will also help business travellers, generating net benefits over the longer term for the economy.

Some of the key pro-consumer measures in the Regulation include:
Continue Reading EU Telecoms Regulation Proposals: Part 2 – New Consumer Rights

Yesterday a federal appeals court upheld the Federal Communications Commissions rule, adopted in April 2011, requiring wireless carriers who provide mobile data services to offer roaming agreements to other wireless providers on commercially reasonable terms.  (For example, if a Cricket Wireless subscriber leaves that provider’s coverage area, he or she may still use data services of any carrier with whom Cricket has a data roaming arrangement.) In Cellco Partnertship v. FCC, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that “Title III of the Communications Act of 1934 plainly empowers the Commission to promulgate the data roaming rule.”

Although the FCC long ago adopted a limited roaming requirement for mobile voice services and has expanded voice-roaming rules in recent years, the Commission’s authority to issue similar requirements for mobile data services was at issue in this case.  While mobile voice services are subject to certain common carriage requirements of Title II of the Communications Act, which regulates similar services, such as landline telephone services, the FCC’s authority to regulate mobile data services arises only from Title III of the Act.  Mobile data services are considered “information services” and are, therefore, excluded from the definition of “common carrier” in the Act, as interpreted by the Commission. 
Continue Reading Federal Appeals Court Gives a Jolt to FCC Authority By Upholding Data Roaming Rules