Mexican telecoms bill to raise pressure on Slim: draft

Fri Feb 28, 2014 12:01am EST
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By Simon Gardner and Dave Graham

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico will give its new telecoms regulator sweeping powers to police dominant telecommunications companies, right down to their prices and discounts, according to a draft bill that fleshes out a constitutional reform passed last year.

The spearhead of efforts to curb the power of telecoms mogul Carlos Slim, the Federal Institute for Telecommunications (IFT) will be able to force phone companies to seek approval every year for interconnection and infrastructure-sharing terms, according to a draft of the legislation obtained by Reuters.

It is part of a massive remit granted to the IFT that allows the watchdog to order phone and TV companies to sell assets, share networks and infrastructure and revoke concessions.

The local mobile and fixed-line units of Slim's firm America Movil as well as broadcaster Televisa are widely expected to be declared dominant by the IFT.

Slim, who became one of the world's richest men after taking control of Mexico's former state telephone monopoly at the outset of the 1990s, controls around 80 percent of Mexico's fixed-line business and about 70 percent of the mobile sector.

Televisa has more than 60 percent of the TV market, and many Mexicans complain it exerts too much political influence. However, the broadcaster's economic power lags far behind Slim.

The telecoms overhaul has raised hope that the government is serious about finally breaking the stranglehold of a select few over Latin America's second biggest economy.

Without naming America Movil, Marcela Guerra, a senator in the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, said a week ago Mexico had been left behind in the race to revamp its telecoms industry because one company had enjoyed "absolute" dominance.   Continued...

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim speaks during the presentation of a digital platform, which was created in partnership with the Carlos Slim Foundation and online course platform Coursera, inside Soumaya museum in Mexico City January 29, 2014. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido