The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Wednesday passed the first reading of a government bill amending telecommunications legislation so that telephone operators will be obliged to share facilities.
Introducing the bill, the Minister of Transport and Communications, Carlos Mesquita, said that technological change “has led to the emergence of a new paradigm in the telecommunications sector, which is that of technological convergence”.
Convergence, he continued, is a worldwide trend “for the use of a single infrastructure to provide services which previously required autonomous equipment, communication channels and licensing systems”. That “single infrastructure” can be used “to carry various communications services such as telephone, internet, data, images, radio, television and computer networks”.
Mesquita said that:
“in order to improve the functioning of the telecommunications market and guarantee the basic rights of consumers” it would now be obligatory for phone companies “to share the existing infrastructures”.
Public policies in this sector, he added, “should contribute to an increase in coverage of rural areas, an increase in the number of citizens served by high performance fibre-optic networks, and continual improvement in the average Internet speed”.
The government hoped “that we will raise access to the Internet in our country to a new level, compatible with the importance of information and communications technologies, and as a response to the demand from Mozambicans for information, knowledge and services”.
The legal framework of the amended legislation, Mesquita pledged, “seeks to guarantee the licensing and operation of communications services in an environment of technological convergence and the flexibility to deal with rapid changes and to stimulate competition in the telecommunications market”.
The bill was uncontroversial except for the clause on phone-tapping, which states that wire-taps must be authorized by “the relevant authority”. As jurists explained to AIM, the “relevant authority” in this case means a magistrate (which, in the Mozambican system, can be either a judge or a public prosecutor).
This was not good enough for deputies of the former rebel movement Renamo which insisted that the bill should stipulate that only a court can order a phone tap. Without that explicit guarantee, Renamo voted against the bill, while the majority Frelimo Party and the deputies of the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) voted in favour.
The bill thus passed its first reading by 144 votes to 70. It will now be amended in committee before returning to the Assembly plenary for a final vote.
Source: Club of Mozambique/AIM