Until a few decades ago the accumulation of diverse laws and regulations governing different aspects of telecom in Latin America were difficult to disentangle and impinged upon development in the sector. Regional, national and global conventions and standards were chaotically applied, making it difficult to rely upon common criteria for seamless communications. Two regional organizations, one quite old and the other more recently formed, have undertaken to address some of these issues. Both Citel and Regulatel entered into the process of working with their state members to standardize regulations, and more generally to promote growth in the telecom and related ICT sectors. The two regulatory organizations are members of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), but are different in their history and background.
Citel (Inter-American Telecommunication Commission)
Created in 1924 at the Fifth American International Conference, Citel is mandated to coordinate all issues with bearing on telecom for the Organization of American States (OAS). Since its founding, Citel has been concerned with new and emerging ICT media, and stimulating and promoting the development of telecommunication services and networks within the region. Part of its original mandate was to promote and develop telegraphic communication within the member countries. Organizational changes introduced in the 1990s reflected the more recent impacts of convergence and new technologies and services within the telecom sector.
Citel has 35 member countries and 200 associate organizations, with voice but not vote. More recently, Citel has opened its doors to private operators, industrial and international financing institutions, and scientific representatives. According to its statutes, Citel has technical autonomy in the achievement of its goals, “within the limits prescribed by the OAS Charter,” the mandates of the General Assembly and the specific mandates of the Summits of the Americas. Citel's structure includes different bodies: the General Assembly, the Permanent Executive Committee (COM/Citel), three Permanent Consultative Committees (PCC I: Telecommunication Standardization, PCC II: Radio communication, including broadcasting, and the Steering Committee and finally the Conference Preparatory Working Group). Citel is financed by regular funds of the OAS and specific funds.
In its Strategic Plan 2002-2006, some organizational weaknesses are identified, which in part have contributed to Citel’s poor visibility within the region. These include limited participation by the members, significantly differing levels of development between states, weak ICT infrastructure investment in the region, insufficient competent staff, lack of mandatory mechanisms needed to accomplish the organization’s Resolutions, and the fact that continuously changing representatives inhibits consistency of efforts. The organization’s limitations may also reflect the member states’ own limitations and lack of perspective regarding the imperative of ICT for economic and social development within region.
A current priority area for Citel concerns the extension of ICTs across the region, in promotion of economic growth and creating foundations for a knowledge-based society. In 2001, Citel prepared an Agenda for Connectivity for the Americas: “a conceptual framework that may be viewed as a national, regional, or sub regional strategy for stepping up the transformation of the countries of the hemisphere into knowledge-based societies.”
Regulatel (Foro Latinoamericano de Entes Reguladores de Telecomunicaciones/Latin American Regulatory Agencies Forum)
Regulatel membership comprises 19 Latin American regulatory agencies from Central and South America and Mexico. The organization was created in 1997, at a meeting in Cancun, Mexico, of the respective heads of the regulatory authorities, “to promote cooperation and coordination of efforts, and to promote the development of telecommunications in Latin America.” This includes cooperation among regional organizations, with the ITU, and the strengthening of international cooperation. Its structure includes a Plenary, a President, the General Secretary and a Management Committee.
Regulatel is dedicated to the assertion that “telecommunications is a powerful weapon in order to promote the integration among peoples of the region.” The paramount issue for the first formal meeting of the organization in 1998 was accounting rates (maximum prices, irregular practices, and ITU reforms).
In December 2003, the IV Summit of European and Latin American Regulators IRG/Regulatel launched a declaration that in addition to the need for inter-regional cooperation, also addressed issues such as the development of broadband and charges to interconnection in mobile networks.