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Will America Follow the European Union in Becoming Roaming-Free?

By | [email protected] | March 20, 2018 6:11pm

Ibarra2Modernization Minister Andrés Ibarra.

Good afternoon, kind readers! It seems that nineteen South and Latin American countries are coming together to make life easier (and potentially, cheaper) for its inhabitants, including our beautiful Argentina!

Now, that captured your attention, didn’t it?

The Argentine government, together with 18 of its continental neighbors, announced that it was working on a law to make every call within the (almost) entire American continent roaming-free, similar to how it works within the European Union. This proposal was made official in the Declaration of Buenos Aires, signed by all the participants of the VII Assembly of the Inter-american Telecommunications Commission (CITEL), held in, obviously, Buenos Aires (hence the name).

Notably, the document states that to assure the success of this proposal, it will need the “means to allow more transparency to put an end to any additional costs to the users of any international telecommunication services,” while also being extremely careful of the “realities and necessities of the border areas.”

With respect to this, Argentina’s Minister of Modernization Andrés Ibarra declared that they (and all the different countries taking part in this project) had “the duty to generate the conditions for our citizens to communicate without any barriers, and to encourage the investments so that our operators can offer an accessible and high-quality service.”

In essence: Great news!

While not all countries have promised to be a part of this, quite a few did: Argentina, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, the United States, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay have currently signed the proposal that will make a lot of people a lot happier.

But don’t think you will be able to post any Insta Stories during your holidays on a Brazilian beach just yet: It is going to be a long process because of (a) the number of countries involved, and (b) the fact that while they did all agree to put an end to the roaming fees, the official time frame for this to take place is somewhere between 2018 and 2022. Each country will probably start becoming roaming-free at different times, meaning establishing an exact date will be complicated at best.

Moreover, governments will have to be careful: After this regulation took effect, Europe saw many users change their local phone carriers to one that provided them with a cheaper contract in a different country – usually in Eastern Europe. The EU took care of this by implementing new regulations, but it’s definitely food for thought for their American counterparts.

Last but not least, there are some governments that did not sign – for example, Chile. While that’s bad news for, say, a backpacking Californian trying to get to know the southern edge of the continent, the Argentine government assured that it would not be a problem for its citizens, as a treaty was signed at the end of last year to eliminate any roaming charges on both sides of the Andes. This new arrangement is hoped to go into effect in 2020, though, so you won’t be sending Snapchats from the colorful streets of Valparaiso either – at least, not for now.

Just in case you were curious, this wasn’t the only issue tackled during the Declaration of Buenos Aires. Other topics that were put on the table included encouraging the development of infrastructures and services of telecommunication, as well as new regulations for cyber security, the protection of personal data, and the protection of children online.

Yeah, I know you stopped reading halfway through the last paragraph – you were only here to know more about roaming-free ‘Gramming. Millennials, smh.