With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for phone and internet users.
Almost all of us use telecom services: about 82 % of EU citizens have used the internet in the last 3 months, 360 million Europeans use it every day and there are around 700 million SIM cards currently in circulation in the EU.
The European telecom sector used to be run exclusively by state monopolies. However, in the 1980s the EU started promoting liberalisation, gradually opening the markets up to competition. This brought prices for telecom services down: the traditional providers’ share of the fixed-line telephone market shrunk, and in most countries consumers began paying less for national long-distance and international calls. New entrants in both the fixed-line and mobile markets have given consumers a greater choice of service provider and products. Thanks to EU action, roaming charges for calls, text messages and data were finally abolished on 15 June 2017. This means people travelling abroad within the EU are using their mobile phones much more than before. In effect, Europeans tend to spend on less on telecommunication services than the citizens or USA or Japan.
The EU has also done a lot to promote broadband. This has helped to reduce prices in most EU countries and means that 99.9 % of EU households now have access to fixed or mobile broadband. EU consumer protection laws, meanwhile, aim to guarantee a reasonable quality of service at affordable prices, ensure free access to emergency telephone numbers, the right to a written contract lasting just two years, transparent information, and the possibility to switch providers in a day without changing phone number.
- EPRS publication on roam like at home by default, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2016/595857/EPRS_BRI%282016%29595857_EN.pdf
- EPRS publication on broadband as a universal service, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2016/581977/EPRS_BRI(2016)581977_EN.pdf
- EPRS publication on European Gigabit Society, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/thinktank/en/document.html?reference=EPRS_BRI(2017)603979