Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Costa Rica - Liberalisation

New telecommunications guidelines to receive public scrutiny

Once the Constitutional Court gave the green light to legislation opening Costa Rica’s telecommunications market to private companies, the Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP) began drafting three sets of guidelines that will regulate this market, and which will be presented at public audiences where citizens can scrutinize them.

ARESEP will organize videoconferences on Aug. 25, 26 and 27, linking up the country’s eight regions simultaneously. The meetings can be attended at the ARESEP auditorium in San Jose, at the justice tribunal headquarters in Liberia, Limon, Heredia, Ciudad Quesada, Puntarenas, Perez Zeledon and Cartago.

“Starting today, we are opening a public discussion about how we will apply regulations according to the new General Telecommunications Law,” Regulator General Fernando Herrero said. “These three sets of guidelines seek to secure access for all Costa Ricans to telecommunications services, competition among providers for the benefit of consumers, and rational use of current and future infrastructure.”

Added Herrero: “These sets of guidelines are founded on knowledge of our institutional framework and on analysis of international experiences. One lesson that is learned from the latter is that for market opening to be successful, and so that it serves the benefits of the majority, it’s essential to have clear and well-defined guidelines that specify the rules which will guide the development of this market.”

The guidelines proposal that ARESEP will present are part of a process of revision and consultation, Herrero explained, adding that the drafts began at ARESEP’s Telecommunications Office, which conducted preliminary studies and came up with the first version of the guidelines. In the second phase, ARESEP hired the services of international consultant Salma Jalife, who conducted a technical review of all documents.

For the third phase, a team that included officials with the Ministry of the Environment and Energy (MINAE) and the Ministry of Foreign Trade (COMEX) was created to critique the proposals from the perspective of the policies the Executive Branch seeks to promote and the commitments of the country with its commercial partners.

“Now it’s time for the next phase, of public consultation, so that we can receive feedback from different sectors and have the proposals critiqued,” Herrero said. “In the final phase, the guidelines will need to be approved by ARESEP’s board of directors.”

The main objective of the country’s new telecommunications paradigm — billed as one of universal access, universal service and solidarity — is to promote access to quality telecom services in a fast, efficient manner at affordable and competitive prices for residents everywhere in the country, even in areas where the high cost of installation and maintenance of telecommunications infrastructure makes offering such services unprofitable.

Additionally, the systems seeks to provide the same quality of services to institutions and individuals with special needs, including orphans’ homes, the elderly, people with disabilities, Indigenous communities, public schools, and public health centers.

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