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Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber to hold hearing on proposed mobile Internet rate changes

September 17, 2014

The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, scheduled a hearing on Thursday at 9 a.m. for advocates and opponents of a proposed change in mobile Internet rates, originally scheduled to take effect last month.

The rate proposal by the Telecommunications Superintendency (SUTEL) responds to a request by the country’s three carriers – Movistar, Claro and the state-owned Kölbi – and includes charges for transferred data instead of connection speed, which is how plans currently operate.

The process was delayed on June 12 when a private citizen, whose name the court did not disclose, filed a complaint with the Sala IV against SUTEL and the Science and Technology Ministry. The legal action argues that SUTEL “is acting as judge and jury in this matter” and questions the agency’s role in deciding on the change to the rate model.

At Thursday’s hearing, each party – including the complainant, SUTEL and representatives from the Ombudsman’s Office – will be allowed to present arguments and be assisted by an attorney and an expert, according to the Sala IV. Members of the public are invited to attend, but cannot present arguments or statements.

Sala IV justices agreed to hold the hearing before issuing a final ruling.

“For users, this process will represent a guarantee of the defense of their rights,” Sala IV justices said in press release.

Under the proposed rates, carriers would offer a basic plan at ₡3,750 ($7) for both prepaid and postpaid users that includes 500 MB of data transfer. Anything beyond that means companies would charge ₡0.0075 per Kb downloaded.

Catalina Delgado Agüero, legal affairs director at the Ombudsman’s Office, and Economic Affairs Director Karina Zeledón Lépiz also will attend the hearing “to present a technical report in order to protect citizens’ rights and interests,” spokesman Ahmed Tabash said.

An email address set up in July by the Ombudsman’s Office to receive consumer feedback on the proposal has received more than 1,300 messages that were evaluated and included in the drafting of the report, he added.

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