Internet is a public service… in Chile | Right to communication

Internet is a public service… in Chile | Right to communication
Internet is a public service… in Chile | Right to communication

The Chilean government decided to establish Internet access as a public communications serviceThe law, Law 21,678, was published in the Official Journal of Chile on July 3 and reforms the previous provisions on the matter. The text states that “public telecommunications services will be governed by principles that ensure the adaptability and sustainability of the sector”then listing a series of criteria for this to occur.

The decision adopted by the Chilean state is in line with what is happening in much of the world, although in Argentina A recent decree by Javier Milei repealed the decision in the same sense which had been adopted during the pandemic by the government of President Alberto Fernández.

Through the publication in the Official Gazette of decree 302/2024 on April 10, the LLA government repealed decree No. 690/20 – sanctioned during the Covid-19 pandemic – which regulated prices for telephone, internet and cable television services, and which established telecommunications as an essential public service. The MIlei government assured that the decision to reverse the step taken aims to “liberate the market and obtain the free development of such services”, in reference to fixed and mobile telephony, fixed and mobile internet and pay television.

It is worth noting, however, that in Argentina, Fernández’s decree was challenged in March 2021 by the most important internet operators operating in the market, who obtained court rulings that protected them, allowing them to circumvent the decree and continue setting rates as they wished.

In Argentina there are approximately a thousand companies that provide telecommunications services, among which are: a large number of cooperatives and SMEs that did comply at the time with the provisions of the law that declared the Internet a public service. On the other hand, the five largest companies that control 85% of the cable television market, in addition to the three that dominate the mobile telephony market, did not comply with the law and relied on the court ruling to continue imposing rates on the majority of users.

At the same time that it took away from the State the ability to regulate rates by freeing prices, Milei’s government argued that “given the growing development of telecommunications services, the contemplation of the different circumstances of the market is essential, both to favor its dynamism and generate a sustainable competitive balance and to ensure a greater range of services to users at fair prices and with higher quality, extremes that contradict the tariff regulation established by Decree No. 690/20.”

The regulation that came into force in Chile now establishes, among other things, that it ensures the “universality” of the telecommunications service, which is why “universal access to telecommunications services will be promoted, with special emphasis on Internet connectivity, to ensure the digital inclusion of the entire population, regardless of their geographic location.”

For this same reason, it was decided that during the budget discussion by which resources are allocated each year for the public sector “it may be possible to enable, from the resources of the Telecommunications Development Fund, a subsidy is available for the payment of Internet service bills for a certain percentage of the most vulnerable users in the country.”

The law also establishes the “continuity” of the provision of services, which means that they must be “offered regularly and uninterruptedly, and any violation of this provision will result in the legal sanctions provided for this purpose.”

Among the provisions of Chilean law, it advocates for the efficient use of physical infrastructure, without impeding the promotion of the deployment of new telecommunications networks and infrastructure and encouraging the shared use of infrastructure regardless of its ownership or original purpose and transparency, equality and efficiency in the allocation of resources.

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