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Over 500 representatives from the regional digital ecosystem met in Argentina for the 7th Latin American Telecommunications Congress

  • The CLT19, the annual Latin American forum on ICT public policy, came to an end yesterday. It gathered government and regulatory authorities, executives at tech companies, leaders of international bodies and academics from over 20 countries, in Córdoba, Argentina.
  • The fourth day of the event witnessed discussions on the role of the Universal Access Funds, the ecosystem of the Internet of Things (IoT), piracy, and Internet governance.

 

Córdoba, Argentina. July 5, 2019. The 7th Latin American Telecommunications Congress came to an end yesterday with great success. As its first edition in Argentina, the event was attended by over 500 participants from over 20 countries, who came together to debate the public policy needed to accelerate the digital transformation in Latin America.

Proposal to redesign the Universal Access Funds in Latin America

The hot topic of the fourth day of the Congress was the use of the Universal Access Funds to bridge the digital divide. “The big challenge about this tool in Latin America is to use them,” said Maryleana Méndez, Regulatory Consultant at ASIET, who underscored the Connected Homes Program in Costa Rica.

For the US, Ajit Pai, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), talked about the Connect America Program, which has allocated 1,488 million dollars for connectivity in rural areas of the country, with the purpose of providing broadband services to 700 thousand people in the next ten years. “The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) suggests integrating the funds with the country’s digital agenda, which implies the participation of new players,” explained Sergio Scarabino, representative of the ITU for South America.

In addition, Sebastián Kaplan, Public Policy Manager, Connectivity & Access at Facebook, suggested using the funds for innovation projects, in alliance with new players to achieve rural connectivity and to subsidize smartphones. Ángel Melguizo, Vice-President of External and Regulatory Affairs for AT&T DIRECTV Latin America, called for a transformation of the funds based on the best practices and suggested giving credit to Internet connections in exchange for spectrum use. Meanwhile, José Juan Haro, Director of Public Policy and Wholesale Business at Telefónica Latam, claimed that “funds have been used inefficiently for the past 25 years.” Haro questioned the continuity of the funds that raise industry resources, but do not usually help close the digital divide.

Allan Ruíz, Executive Secretary of the Regional Telecommunications Technical Commission (COMTELCA), stated that legal frameworks for the funds are not clear about their purposes, and, in some other cases, they were created containing measures just for the telephone service, which limits their use for broadband.

The IoT between the security challenge and telco monetization
According to the data gathered by the GSMA, there will be 25 billion connected devices by 2025 all around the world, of which only 3.5 will have a traditional cellular connectivity. The rest of them will be LPWAN IoT devices.  “Our members operating IoT do it at the regional level, because we need a significant scalability for it to be profitable,” said Stefano Nicoletti, Policy Director at the GSMA. He pointed out that the main challenge for carriers in this matter will be adding value and, thus, the GSMA has an IoT program to help carriers focus on and develop offers to face the market competitively.

Martín Wessel, Technology Evolution Manager at Telecom Argentina, added that they are aware that the business will not be connectivity itself. “We have to change in order to reap the benefits of the rest of the IoT ecosystem,” he said.  Another challenge posed by technology is security. Sonia Agnese, Senior Analyst at Ovum, suggested that the region address the cases of IoT security protection happening in other parts of the world. She mentioned the work of ENISA, the department of device certification of the EU, or the public consultation on IoT certification by the UK.

For Chaesub Lee, Director of ITU Standardization Bureau, it is hard to think about progress in societies or economies without IoT. We need to consider working not only on security and privacy, but also on trust.

The region needs to develop its own view on Internet governance and face the challenges posed by piracy

Internet governance presents big challenges in the current scenario, including the crisis of the self-regulation model, the increase of trust and security, content moderation and freedom of expression. Andrés Sastre, Regional Director at ASIET, said that Latin America needs to rethink its spaces for dialog so that they can have a real impact on public policy in the short- and medium-term. In addition, Raquel Gatto, Regional Policy Advisor at Internet Society (ISOC), stressed the need to identify what the real issues are and where to find them.  She called for cooperation and for the re-evaluation of the mechanisms that once worked but are no longer responding to current challenges.

Facundo Recondo, from WarnerMedia, talked about the need to change the approach on piracy, which is not about content. Nowadays, the problem is money laundering, tax evasion, job losses (50 thousand in the region), personal data theft and privacy.

Debate and regulatory progress towards 5G with the participation of the FCC

Finally, the Latin American Telecommunications Congress ended with a round table organized by ASIET and Regulatel, in which many regulators from Latin America put forward their plans on connectivity and spectrum release, and addressed the policy of the FCC of the US, the benefits for users, and the actions taken by its Chairman, Ajit Pai.

For more information on the CLT19 key discussions, please see:

Day 1 – Summary of the day | Day 2 – Summary of the opening session | Summary of the day  | Day 3 – Summary of the day