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Issue of cross-border transactions and roaming charges must be addressed – Reilly

14 July, 2011

Sinn Fein Senator Kathryn Reilly has today called on the Minister of State for European Affairs to support measures being advanced by the Polish Presidency of the EU to reduce cross-border difficulties in electronic services.

Speaking in the European Affairs Committee, Senator Reilly said the costs of cross-border and banking transactions and roaming charges was a huge issue along the border counties and needed to be addressed.

Speaking after the Committee meeting, Senator Reilly said:

“This Government needs to wholeheartedly support the measures being put forward by the Polish presidency of the EU to reduce difficulties in cross-border transactions and roaming charges. Being from a border county, I know the extreme challenges being faced by families and businesses who straddle the border in terms of electronic services.

“The border continues to be a financial burden on families and restricts businesses. It is important therefore that barriers are removed to cross-border electronic services and internet.

“While recent changes to roaming costs are welcome they fall well short of what is required. This is a time when electronic communications and services have overtaken fixed-line and manual services and when the knowledge economy is increasingly becoming available through mobile phones and the internet.

“For example, living in close proximity to the border often results in involuntary 'roaming' charges being imposed on unsuspecting mobile users because of a competing stronger signal from the opposite side of the border. Mobile phone signals do not recognise borders and therefore short of turning the phone off when travelling there is no option but to pay.

“Such costs are also a major barrier to doing business and creating jobs. How on Earth, can normal trade relations be established when the commercial sector is being penalised in developing telecommunications contacts and operating with customers and suppliers in the North?

“I welcome Minister Creighton’s commitment to working on this issue I hope it is a priority that can be extended to the Irish presidency. Indeed, Sinn Féin has always advocated, for example, for an all-Ireland telecommunications market and we hope the EU can advance this project.

“There can be no more profiteering at the expense of people in the border region at a time when we need to foster greater linkages and trade ties. If enough public and political pressure is brought to bear, there should be no difficulty in complete ease of access to cross-border electronic services whether you live in Kerry or Belfast, Cavan or Enniskillen.”

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