Industry sizes up zero rating, ad blocking and roaming guidelines

EC building, Brussels
EC pic

It’s been an interesting week in the world of EU telecoms regulation -- or at least as interesting as it can be in the rather dry and humourless world of rules and guidelines.

Berec certainly made itself reasonably unpopular with the telecoms community, although the body that represents national telecoms regulators within the European Union pleased open Internet supporters with its less than favourable comments on zero-rating and ad blocking within net neutrality guidelines.

Providers of ad-blocking technology were robust in their support of what Roi Carthy, chief marketing officer of Shine Technologies, described as the right of European citizens to protect themselves from being “tracked, profiled and targeted” by advertising technologies.

Three UK also indicated this week that intends to press ahead with plans to introduce technology to improve how advertisements are served on mobile devices, even though several reports suggested the operator could be prevented from doing so under Berec’s net neutrality guidelines -- depending on what UK regulator Ofcom ultimately decides.

Berec’s guidelines do not prohibit commercial practices including zero-rating “per se” but they do provide some limits. For example, zero-rated offers are prohibited “where all applications are blocked (or slowed down) once the data cap is reached except for the zero-rated application(s).”

Now that the industry has been given some time to absorb the possible impact of this, it is becoming a little clearer how services could be affected. CCS Insight, for example, noted that players such as eir and Telia “will need to carefully review whether their services contravene the new directive,” while zero-rating “could prove an effective strategy for challenger brands, virtual providers or mobile-only operators.”

It is certainly going to require operators to tread more carefully in future as they circumvent the different rules that could exist in EU markets as national regulators choose how to implement Berec’s guidelines.

As for roaming, the European Commission this week also suggested a fair use policy preventing abusive usages, proposing that customers should be able to roam at domestic prices for up to 90 days per year, with surcharges imposed thereafter. You only have to look at the comments below the proposal to see the outrage of EU citizens over the introduction of new restrictions following promises that retail roaming charges would be abolished. The roaming discussion is still clearly far from over. --Anne