Mexican president calls for dissolution of telecoms regulator


A reform package proposed by Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador would see a number of regulatory organisations shut down, including the telecoms regulator the Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (IFT)

This week, the Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has proposed a raft of constitutional changes that includes weakening or dissolving entirely various autonomous bodies, including the IFT.

According to López Obrador’s proposal, this would allow public spending to be redistributed more fairly – particularly to pensions and social programmes.

2024 is an election year in Mexico and López Obrador is seeking to push through these reformed before his term expires in summer.

The Mexican constitution limits the president to just a single six-year term.

With regards to the IFT itself, abolishing the regulator would see related regulatory powers moved to the central government itself. This, López Obrador says, would make the regulatory process more effective and more cost efficient.

López Obrador has been on something of a crusade against the IFT for years, claiming that the regulator’s commissioners earn too much money and refusing to replace them when their terms expired.

The IFT, naturally, was displeased by the proposal.

“This institution considers that the proposal represents a setback to the detriment of users and audiences, given that it implies returning to a model that was demonstrated to have serious limitations to achieve, among other objectives, the entry of more competitors, greater legal certainty and ensuring a level playing field so that more Mexicans can have more telecommunications services at a lower price and with higher quality, as well as more radio and television stations where a greater diversity of voices and opinion can be expressed,” said the regulator in a statement.

The IFT was set up in 2013, prior to which the sector was overseen by the communications and transport ministry (SCT). As such, returning regulatory powers to the government could simply be seen as a return to the status quo of nearly a decade ago.

However, the realities of the situation would be much more complicated. Not only would the change have major ramifications for the sector domestically, but the removal of the IFT could also create issues on an international level; the free trade agreement between Mexico, the USA, and Canada (the USMCA), for example, requires the existent of an independent ICT regulator, and could be in jeopardy if López Obrador’s proposed reforms come into effect.

Perhaps ironically, given the shakeup these proposals would have for Mexico’s telecoms sector, the reforms would also move to define internet access as a constitutional right.

The internet, says López Obrador, “constitutes a strategic public service whose objective is to prevent a significant part of the population, for economic reasons, from [not being able to access] this fundamental instrument for education, culture, economy and information, and therefore a constitutional criterion must be added with which the State guarantees its development.”

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