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This month, Policy World talks to Dr André Müller Borges, Secretary of Telecommunications, Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications, Brazil
Q. The Ministry has a wide-ranging remit with science, technology, and innovation all falling under its structure. What would you say are the top three objectives of the MCTI?
A. One is to contribute to the reduction of the size and costs of government with the consolidation of the two former ministries: the science, technology and innovation one and the telecommunications ministry, achieving economies of scope through the sharing of administrative costs and infrastructure.
In terms of objectives, it’s also a very convenient fusion because more and more the two sectors of IT and telecommunications are joined, with all ICT under the same umbrella. I go to congresses where they are discussing telecommunications and then we move on to IT and I go to IT seminars and they talk about telecommunications. Telecom is an essential infrastructure across the board, affecting all policies of government. Everything is becoming digital and telecommunications infrastructure is essential for such change. All policies are affected by telecommunications for the full move to digital.
The new MCTIC, in addition to inheriting the competencies of the former Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and in terms of continuing and conducting such a role, has the mission of articulating guidelines for national science, technology and innovation policies with states and civil society. This new competence was immediately put into operation by Minister Gilberto Kassab in proposing the convocation of the National Council of Science and Technology, deactivated more than two years ago. The Council is a forum of great importance to bring government, scientific community, academia and civil society together. In addition, the new ministry shall allow the alignment of projects and programmes, especially in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), such as the Brazilian Digital Agenda, the National Internet of Things Plan and the Satellite Geostationary Defence and Strategic Communications, which will allow broadband internet access throughout the country and the digital inclusion of research centres in remote areas of the country.
IoT is so important because it is the underpinning of the digital economy. The new economy will be supported by the quality of the internet connections: agriculture, health, domestic life and so on. So we have to have a very large investment in infrastructure to be ready for that.
Q. The Ministry sees access to technology as a key pillar for the development of Brazil’s economy. The MCTI has invested in broadband deployment and also satellite technologies. How are you able to work with industry to encourage access?
A. My secretariat specifically is in charge of telecommunications and my role is to expand national connectivity and to improve quality. We shall do that by changing the regulatory environment to promote investment both in economically viable markets and investment in markets that are not economically viable.
So, we are revising the general telecommunications law. We are changing and updating some rules to adapt to the new technological environment. The purpose is to place broadband connectivity in the centre of the public policy replacing fixed telephony universalization. For example, the holders of licences – specially the concessions – will now be able to continuously renew their licences. Other requirements, of a financial, technical and compliance nature, will continue to apply, as well as the obligation to pay a licence fee. The renewal will therefore be much more predictable, and operators will have a much better environment to continue investing in their network capacity throughout the life of their licenses, including and especially towards the end of their terms. They will have the comfort of being able to amortise their investments and not have to dispose of their assets.
With regard to concessions, the new law is determining the precise concept of reversible assets in order to separate which assets would have to be made available to a successor at the termination of a concession. The law provides that shared assets are not subject to such a rule – just a proportion of capacity. This is very helpful for operators as they don’t have to worry about building separate networks nor fear that newly invested assets will be deemed reversible. This leads to an encouragement to invest.
Spectrum licences will also enjoy the same ability of successive renewal with the same effect.
With regard to satellite, all interested parties who have the resources to exploit a satellite position will be able to acquire the necessary license without bids. This should help improve the satellite market.
So that is how we intend to improve investment in areas that are economically attractive.
And since we will allow concession holders to adapt their licences to authorisations, there will be a cost to transfer the concession, and the cost will be payable through investment in broadband infrastructure. According to the government policy which we will announce in the next few weeks, they will have to install transport networks connecting all cities in Brazil; a large part with optical fibre, a smaller part, digital radio with high capacity.
Another directive is to take 4G to every town in Brazil which has a population of fewer than 30,000; also, to install 3G networks in areas which are more distant but are densely populated. The decision is according to population size. Another target is to cover certain urban areas that are not well served by network connection because of poor conditions, such as areas without infrastructure.
Note we are revising the telecoms policy altogether: largely concentrated on issues such as the deployment of broadband, the issue of sharing network assets; establishing priority in investments and so on.
Q. How does the Ministry decide where to deploy its resources?
A. In a country like Brazil there are still very large parts still not connected, we still have to cover a lot of ground. There is a pretty large part of the population that is still not served. So that is the end goal.
We are also undertaking some studies to measure the impact on the economy and employment against investment in broadband. But this leads to a long sequence: Who comes first? We have to connect the country where networks don’t exist, but there are priorities. We are going to connect first cities that have projects of local access networks. Or smart cities projects, which we also have within the Ministry and which comprise of infrastructure connecting public systems and utilities and also provide smart city applications such as security, e-government, health and education. The priority is to take the transport network to those places.
We have to connect all but will first connect those who can make ready use of the technology and provide for a better usage of the investment.
Q. You will be taking part in the forthcoming IIC Telecommunications and Media Forum, an international event although focused on the Latin American and Caribbean countries. How important to you and your colleagues is it to work with your counterparts in other countries and what do you expect from the IIC meeting?
A. It is always extremely helpful to bring people together to exchange ideas and experiences. We are all working on the same things and the region has a lot of similarities. We all have the same difficulties, we are all working on projects but lack the budgets to meet public policies.
It is very rich to be able to exchange ideas and experiences and models. You can get information from the internet but being together makes that sort of exchange so much more valuable.
André Müller Borges is currently Secretary of Telecommunications at the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications. He has 28 years of executive experience in companies such as NET Serviços / Globo, Oi, TVA and Alcoa in the legal, regulatory, Institutional and strategic, holding positions of Executive Vice-Presidency and management, as well as acting in law firms, such as TozziniFreire and Bettiol Advogados.
Dr Müller Borges was previously also vice-president of the Brazilian Association of Pay-Per-View Television – ABTA, Director of Telecommunications of the Federation of Industries of São Paulo – FIESP and a Member of the Regulatory and Competition and Arbitration Commissions of the Brazilian Bar Association, Federal Council and Sectional of São Paulo, respectively.
Dr Müller Borges is a graduate of the Faculty of Law of PUC-SP, with an extension at the Chicago School of Business.
Policy World talks to Dr André Müller Borges, Secretary of Telecommunications, Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications, Brazil
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