It’s the end of roaming charges, at least for people in the EU, as the European Commission on June 15 rolled out its latest rendition of the “Digital Single Market”. It’s a question if and how lower tariffs for data, text messages, and phone calls will reduce the allure of insecure free WiFi hotspots.
The pursuit of a free market means more than simply moving vegetables from Greece to Sweden, it also means a free market where pesky borders can no longer be used to jack up the costs of some services – like telecommunications. The European Commission pursuit of a technology single market has the dual benefit of both stripping away market barriers and then also demonstrating to consumers that EU policies are not just a bureaucratic mess – they can make life cheaper and less complicated.
Roaming charges? What’s up with them anyways?
Roaming charges – whereby national telecom companies charge higher rates for about everything used abroad – have been a substantial irritant for smartphone users globally and in the EU. Just step over an internal EU border and the charges add up quickly for voice calls and text messages. On the other hand, telecom companies have loved them.
These anti-roaming charges – along with high data costs for everyone – have helped push the development of Free WiFi and its related infrastructure. Just take a look at the crowds of tourists – they step off a plane and look for a free or unprotected WiFi connection. And yes, the pursuit of Free WiFi has also led to some cyber-criminality as the bad guys set up bogus WiFi connections to bilk unwary individuals and steal private data.
Feel right at home
The first sign most people will get of the change is a text message when they cross an internal border in the EU that says something like –
“Welcome to _____, here you can speak and send SMS and MMS for the same price like you would at home.”
The first individual response to this is clear – you phone home and say you have safely arrived. At least that is what I did.
Where do we go from here?
But, the interesting question is how this will influence behavior and expenditures over time: Will this mean that free WiFi will no longer be enough to lure people into overpriced cafes? Will people send more text messages and social media photos based on their own data plan while on vacation? Will people spend less time looking for (insecure) Free WiFi hotspots?
The summer rush is just starting, so it is too soon to know what the results will be. I expect people will still use the Free WiFi wherever possible so they don’t get a financial hit from posting too many pictures on Facebook and Instagram. So when on a public WiFi, just remember two things.
- It is intrinsically insecure and not private.
- Make it secure by using a VPN such as Phantom VPN to encrypt your both your online contents and the addresses of the places you are visiting.
After all, you should be free to roam and not free to track.