Draft Telecom Law Would Give Ecuador's Defense Ministry Special Powers

Photo: Usuarios Digitales (Digital Users), used with authorization.

In a report released on Oct. 29, the Commission of Ecuador's National Assembly initiated an accelerated process to approve a draft Telecommunications Law that has been “sleeping” for three years. Civil society has been on alert about the issue since the draft was introduced in 2011 — at that time, some advances were made, including an amendment supporting Network Neutrality — but the recent call for its analysis received no replies.

Assembly members discussed various aspects of the proposed law, including a special rate that would apply to the leading mobile phone service operator, and a provision that would give the Ministry of Defense increased powers in situations of “public calamity”.

.@CristinaReyesec: Efficiency cannot be punished, that's why the wrong message is being sent to the world. Telecommunications Law — National Assembly (@AsambleaEcuador) November 11th, 2014

.@henrycucalon believes that the Telecommunications Law project is about the creation of rules to increase tax revenues. Telecommunications Law — National Assembly (@AsambleaEcuador) November 6th, 2014

The Assembly Member for Cotopaxi, Cesar Umaginga, asks that telecommunications be nationalized. Telecommunications Law https://t.co/9QPv4uFMAE — Fabián Auz (@AuzFabian) November 11th, 2014

The organization Usuarios Digitales (Digital Users) cricizeed the bill on various fronts:

El control total del Ministerio de Defensa en estado de excepción por “calamidad pública”
La eliminación de un ente técnico de control autónomo, para crear una agencia bajo poder político
La protección de datos personales sólo en casos comerciales, no en otros.

The [bill gives] the Ministry of Defense total control in the face of “public calamity”
The [bill enables the] dissolution of an autonomous entity of control to create an agency controlled by political power
The [bill enables the] protection of personal data only in business related cases, not in others

Various Twitter users also reacted to the story:

@usuariosdigital “public calamity” leaves the door open for censorship, abuse and media persecution in cases of popular dissent. Watch out, people! — Pedro Franco (@Petruxec) November 14, 2014

The process was open for commentary from assembly members until Nov. 14. The project will be sent to a second debate in the Plenary Session, but the date for this session has not yet been set.

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