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Mexican Telecoms Law Delayed, For Now

BY Jessica McKenzie | Tuesday, June 24 2014

Photo: Stefan Schweihofer/Pixabay

A vote on Mexico's unpopular telecommunications legislation—which had been scheduled to coincide with the World Cup—has been put on ice until July, Libre Internet Para Todos (Free Internet for All) told Global Voices, although GV adds that the law still could be “fast tracked” through the process. In response to criticism and widespread protests in April, Mexico's governing party promised to make changes before passing the law. However, Access reports that any changes have been merely “cosmetic” and “almost all the threats to digital rights remain.”

It should, in theory, be a really great time to force unpopular legislation through: VICE News reported that only a few dozen protesters showed up to a demonstration against the telecoms bill this Saturday. A spokesperson for Mexico's Senate told VICE that the telecommunications bill was delayed because of criticism from the opposition.

Peter Micek, Policy Counsel at Access, explained in an email to techPresident how the law will likely progress now:

The timing of the bill is very uncertain because Congress is officially in recess. Therefore, they will need to open an extraordinary session of Congress dedicated to approve the Telecom Bill.

The bill is technically in Senate joint committees. On "a Wednesday" (as early as this week or the following weeks) they plan to call for an extraordinary session of the Senate starting the next day. Then they will discuss and vote the bill there, but it is very unlikely any changes will be made.

Once the vote is finalized in the Senate, it will go to the Chamber of Deputies. There nothing will happen - the Bill will be fast tracked by the government's majority.

The “Ley Telecom” includes provisions that threaten net neutrality, user privacy and the right to free expression. Telecoms would have to retain user data for 24 months, and police would have unfettered access to user data, even real-time location tracking, without needing to get a court order. The authorities would also have free reign to shut down telecommunications companies at the drop of a hat, as long as it is “critical for public safety.” (Except too often in this world, “critical for public safety” is interpreted as a danger to the state, not the people. See: Pakistan, Russia, Thailand, Turkey.)

In April activists flooded the streets in Mexico's major cities to protest the Ley Telecom. Online they made the hashtag #EPNvsInternet a global trending topic. In response to the criticism, Mexico's governing party promised to make changes to the legislation before passing it. The English-language media accepted the government's promises at face value and reported on it as a win. Other more critical observers, however, called it a ruse, and a lack of significant changes to date supports that theory.

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