| MEXICO CITY, March 25
MEXICO CITY, March 25 Mexico's opposition said
on Tuesday a government telecom bill undermines a new watchdog
by keeping key regulatory powers in the executive's hands, in a
spat that could stall the passage of rules aimed at curbing cell
phone mogul Carlos Slim and fellow tycoon Emilio Azcarraga's TV
Mexico's government on Monday sent to the Senate the fine
print of its proposal to overhaul deeply uncompetitive phone and
TV industries, whose high prices and patchy service are seen by
many as a drag on growth.
The bill includes details on the implementation of a
constitutional reform approved last year, giving a new regulator
wide-reaching powers to police the operations of dominant market
players like Slim's America Movil and Televisa
, right down to their prices and discounts.
The telecom overhaul, part of a larger batch of reforms
ranging from energy to tax pushed through by President Enrique
Pena Nieto, has raised hopes Latin America's No. 2 economy is
finally serious about busting monopolies.
However, Mexico's two main opposition parties, the
conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the leftist
Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), have been disappointed by the
so-called secondary legislation presented by the ruling
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
On Monday, both parties signed a joint statement saying the
PRI's bill erodes the power originally destined for the new
regulator, the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT), and
instead empowers the executive branch for "political purposes."
Then on Tuesday, in a setback for the government as it seeks
to sign off on legislation already months behind schedule,
opposition lawmakers were joined by telecom experts and civil
groups, who called it "unconstitutional," arguing it had been
watered down from the original reform.
"There are clear violations to the constitutional precepts
approved in the reform," said Purificacion Carpinteyro, a PRD
lawmaker in the lower house's radio and television commission.
Speaking on local radio, Irene Levy, head of telecom think
tank Observatel, graded the "diluted" bill a five on a scale of
10, compared with the vaunted broader reform passed last year.
Unlike the constitutional reform, which required a
two-thirds majority in Congress that the PRI could not muster
alone, the secondary laws need only a simple majority in the
Senate, before being sent down to the lower house for approval.
The PRI, along with its allies, is just shy of a majority in
the Senate, raising questions about the determination of
opposition parties to derail the PRI's bill.
Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said it would be
"a great shame" if the bill was now not passed.
Under the government's proposal, the IFT will have the power
to levy fines of up to 10 percent of revenue in Mexico in the
case of a repeat offence. It will also be able to force
companies to seek approval annually for interconnection and
(Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Michael O'Boyle;
editing by Simon Gardner and Matthew Lewis)