The latest draft of a new telecoms reform bill has been rejected by groups representing the private sector in Honduras, writes BNamericas citing a report in local daily La Prensa. The private sector is understood to have rejected changes proposed by the President, Manuel Zelaya, and called for a return to discussions on a late-2006 version of the bill. Zelaya sent his version of the bill back to congress in March this year; opponents to the president’s amendments, including Honduran private telcos’ association Asetel, say his version ‘conflicts with Honduran constitutional law and does not adequately allow for the fact that Honduras is required to fully liberalise its telecoms market’ under its World Trade Organisation and Central American Free Trade Agreement (Cafta) obligations. Other areas of disagreement concern a proposal that the state should receive USD0.03 per minute for every international long-distance call, how concession licences should be allocated, and whether the licensing process is handed over to the regulator Conatel – under Zelaya’s plan, this responsibility would stay with Congress.
The private telcos’ association hopes Congress will take responsibility for rejecting the president’s amendments, but given that Zelaya is unlikely to endorse such a point of view, it is feared the house could move to adopt his version. A debate on the revised bill is likely to take place this month.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Honduras has been debating a new telecoms bill since 2005 as part of moves to prepare the market for liberalisation. Although the sector was partially opened up in December 2005 (when the domestic long-distance telephony, telegraphy, public telephony, fixed line telephony and telex services segments were liberalised), state owned incumbent Hondutel still has exclusivity for international interconnection and the state has been discussing measures to protect the operator in the event of the loss of its exclusivity.