Mexico: Footballers stun world, bring home Olympic gold
Upset in Olympic final defies predictions; historic first for Mexican football; government moves controversially to re-auction broadband spectrum
Mexicans celebrated their first (and only) gold medal in this year’s London Olympic Games: a stunning 2-1 upset against Brazil in the men’s Olympic final on Saturday, which marked the first serious international title ever for Mexican football.
Mexico City’s main artery, Paseo de la Reforma, was closed to midday traffic as thousands of fans decked in green, white and red mobbed the gleaming column known as the Angel of Independence.
The capital thrummed with noisemakers and car horns, while street vendors materialized to sell flags and shaved ices to the revellers. In Guadalajara, thousands chanted and sang ‘el Cielito Lindo’ around the city’s iconic Fountain of Minerva.
‘All of Mexico is rejoicing in the streets, and so are Mexicans who live in the United States, who have to put up with so many things, and today are proud to be Mexican,’ said coach Luis Fernando Tena. ‘This won’t fix anybody’s problems, much less the problems that our country faces, but a bit of happiness never hurt anyone.’
Government wades contentiously into battle over public airwaves
The government has announced controversial plans to expropriate and relicense a critical band of the country’s telecom spectrum, in a move that could help open up access to broadband in this country—but has given rise to charges of political favouritism.
The Ministry of Communications (SCT) announced Wednesday its decision to not renew or prematurely terminate (with unspecified compensation) some 68 outstanding licences to broadcast in the 2.5 GHz spectrum, which is seen as valuable for delivering mobile and wireless broadband.
Announcing the decision, Communications Minister Dionisio Pérez-Jácome explained the band is currently underutilized. ‘The 2.5 GHz band is like a high-speed motorway, and Mexico is using just the shoulder,’ he said.
Supporters said the move would encourage competition in expanding broadband access, which at 12% in Mexico is the lowest among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
However, some analysts say the holder of 90% of the band’s current licences, media company Grupo MVS, isn’t to blame for its underutilization.
The group’s own plans for developing the spectrum in partnership with US companies Intel and Clearwire and the Mexican fixed-line operator Alestra have been mired in contentious negotiations with the SCT since early 2011.
The MVS proposal, called ‘Broadband for Everyone’, would have expanded access, particularly among underserved sectors of the population, said Ramiro Tovar Landa, a researcher at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM).
The government said that MVS’s broadband proposals were not viable and the company was unwilling to meet the SCT’s conditions, including fees, for renewing its concessions.
But MVS has blamed its far larger rival, the media giant Televisa, for pressuring the government to derail negotiations. (In June, Televisa was given approval by Mexico’s telecom regulator to buy half of the mobile company Iusacell, meaning it will be a likely bidder for the 2.5 MHz band).
‘It’s evident that pressure from certain telecommunications operators were instrumental in the decision to expropriate this bandwidth,’ said Gabriel Sosa, a telecom analyst who writes for the newspaper El Universal.
Calderón’s time in office, he wrote, ‘has been a completely favourable six years for the interests of Televisa’.
Televisa denied that the SCT’s decision reflected political favouritism, saying that auctions of the 2.5 GHz spectrum for mobile broadband are common in other countries.
‘Mexico urgently needs greater internet and broadband penetration,’ said the head of Mexico’s telecom association Canieti, saying he hopes the government and MVS can reach a negotiated agreement. Otherwise, analysts say, litigation could prevent the bandwidth from being developed for years.
Whatever company wins the new license, industry consultant Jorge Fernando Negrete predicts it is unlikely to be interested in offering broadband service to markets beyond the privileged sectors of the population that can currently afford it.
The problem is not lack of available spectrum, but the absence of public policies focused on the goal of ensuring universal access as in other Latin American countries such as Colombia, Peru and Argentina, he said.
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