President Oscar Arias has signed a law granting partial liberalisation of the telecoms market, marking the end of Grupo ICE’s 46 year long monopoly. Telecoms reform is one of the requirements of the Central America and Dominican Republic free trade agreement with the US (Cafta-DR). When ratified, the agreement will allow foreign companies to compete in the mobile and internet segments. ICE will, however, remain the sole player in the fixed line telephony market. According to BNamericas, local newspapers have commented that the law may not take full effect until other parallel reforms have been approved, which could take another three years. Parallel to the telecoms reform law is a bill to allow changes within ICE and strengthen it in order to face the incoming competition. The government is also due to create a new telecoms authority called Sutel within the existing public utilities regulator Aresep.
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