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Bolivia: New Telecommunications Law

(Aug. 26, 2011) On July 28, 2011, the Bolivian Congress passed a new Law on Telecommunications, Information and Communications Technology (LTICT) (Ley General de Telecomunicaciones, Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación (texto), EJU! website (July 30, 2011)). The Law aims, among other objectives, to give all sectors of Bolivian society equal access to the media, by redistributing broadcasting licenses. (LTICT, art. 2.) Under the new Law, the government will hold 33% of broadcasting licenses; the remainder will be divided among the commercial sector (33%),the community at large (17%), and indigenous groups (17%). (LTICT, art. 10). (Cámara de Senadores Sancionó proyecto de Ley de Telecomunicaciones, EABOLIVIA.COM (July 28, 2011).)

The LTICT also promotes the expansion of telecommunications coverage to rural areas, in furtherance of the principles established in the National Constitution, the National Plan on Development and Telecommunications Policies, and the Framework Law on Autonomy and Decentralization. (Id.)

The Asociación Boliviana de Radiodifusoras (ASBORA), the Bolivian Broadcasters Association, is opposed to the Law, contending that “it could shut down 400 broadcasters in 2017,” when their licenses expire and are up for renewal. This is a major restriction on the freedom of expression, according to the ASBORA. (Carlos Valdez, New Bolivia Law Boosts Government Airwaves Control, ASSOCIATED PRESS (July 29, 2011).

One of the most criticized provisions is article 111, which allows the government to require the telecommunications companies to eavesdrop on any private communication, by means of telephone, e-mail, or the Internet, if the government considers the national security of the country to be at risk or in case of any other major emergency, such as a natural disaster. (Nueva Ley de Telecomunicaciones impondrámayor control sobre prensa, BOLIVIA PRENSA (Aug. 2, 2011).)

The government has voiced its support for the new legislation by stating that the law will benefit the Bolivian people, because it will not only give broader access to telecommunications services, but also regulate the fees and prices that are charged for those services. (Ley Garantiza Acceso a las Telecomunicaciones, CAMBIO (July 30, 2011).)