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5. The rise of telecom regulators

During the 1990s, some 86 new separate telecommunication regulatory agencies were created around the world. In the Americas, of the 22 regulatory agencies that were in existence by early 2000, 18 had been created during the 1990s (Table 1). This process was closely related to the trend towards privatization in the region. The Americas region now features the highest proportion of separate regulatory agencies in the world.

One of the central aims of buttressing the autonomy and professionalism of new regulators is the depolicization of the national telecommunications market. However, achieving these goals has been easier said than done. In Argentina, for example, the administration that ruled the country between 1990 and 1999 intervened at the regulatory agency on several occasions and in each instance, all or most of the directors fo the collegiate body were removed.

In some 40 per cent of the countries of the Americas region that adopted the World Trade Organization's Regulatory Reference paper, the state still maintains a stake or full control over the telecommunication operator and no independent regulatory agency exists. These countries—mostly from the Caribbean—will have to either sell 100 per cent of the company or create an independent regulatory entity to comply with the requirement that the regulator should be "separated from, and not accountable to, any supplier of basic telecommunication services."

Regulatory agencies of the Americas have been granted the power to oversee a significant portion of the telecommunications market. In some cases, however, key regulatory functions are shared with the sector Ministry, remain under the total control of the Ministry, or are split among various regulatory agencies operating in the same industry. Telecommunication regulators have generally been granted jurisdiction over new services, such as the Internet. In a few cases the management and promotion of Internet services fall under other agencies within the state. The splitting of functions and jurisdiction among government agencies is likely to generate turf battles among them as convergence of technologies, services and markets moves from rhetoric to reality.

The Americas region now features the highest proportion of separate regulatory agencies in the world

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Updated : 2007-08-28