Nicaraguan telecoms must turnover subscriber data to Goverment 

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By LatAm Reports Editorial Team

Ortega looking for “traitors”? Critics have no doubt that the dictator will use the ambiguities of the new law to spy on what their militancy, police and military consume on the Internet

The initiative of the General Law on Converging Telecommunications, sent by dictator Daniel Ortega to the National Assembly of Nicaragua, establishes the “obligation” of telecommunications service providers to provide any information required by the Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Mail (Telcor), which for critics means that the Ortega regime will begin a more rigorous search for the traitors within the ranks of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN).

The new General Telecommunications Act addresses all technical aspects, regulations, control and registration of the telecommunications sector, including telephony, internet, television and radio.

Article 109, on the obligation to provide information, provides that – operators of public telecommunications services and audiovisual communications service providers are obliged to provide all the information required of it, including statistical and georeferenced information, on a regular basis or as a result of specific Telcor requirements, in the exercise of its regulatory powers. For this purpose, the required information shall be provided, in detail, in exact, true, timely and verifiable.

The lawyer and political analyst, Eliseo Núñez Morales, valued that this article is very general, leaving open the possibility that Telcor can ask for information even of what a user sees on television or what he consumes on social networks or on Internet pages.

Eliseo Núñez Morales, opposition politician. 

Núñez explained that Telcor normally does have access to statistical information, but the detailed information that can now be requested could only be found with a court order.

Núñez said that the new law does not state that calls can interfere, but insisted that Telcor can know what internet searches are, on Facebook, on cable television or have access to the information of who a user talks or communicates. The analyst believes that this application will be aimed at looking for traitors within its own ranks, in the area of the Police, the Army and other government officials.

Can they even make a profile of a person, mainly of the state employees, of whom they have suspicions, so that they can confirm if this employee looks at the CNN website, look at channels that are against the dictatorship and that are outside the country. All this kind of thing they can ask for it and they don’t necessarily need a court order, explains Núñez.

It’s also a collection law.

The “converging telecommunications law” establishes a maximum period of six months, counted from the entry into force of the law, to replace all Enable Titles that are in force in accordance with the General Law on Telecommunications and Postal Services and Extension Law on the Licenses of Companies, Natural or Legal Persons operated by Radio, Televisions and Tele Cable, laws that will be repealed when this new law enters into force.

To this end, Telcor shall issue the enabling titles that correspond in accordance with the provisions of this Law and the relevant regulations.

Núñez said this means that the convergent telecommunications law would also force all telecommunications service operators and providers to undergo a process of renewing their operating licences, which has so far been automatic. The safest thing for the analyst is that the dictatorship select who will renew them.

All licenses will be expired and new licenses must be operated. That will have to be seen who is renewed and who is not, the broadcasting licences. There they will take advantage to remove the licenses from the last television channels that are not adept at them, claiming technical issues, claiming that they do not meet a certain amount of requirements,” Núñez said.

While telephone and data operators will have to repay their licenses, regenerate bail, which for Núñez means that the law is collection.

Send in six months to renew all licenses. It means that in six months they will have a large collection, because for the new license you have to pay the cost, says the analyst.

Is Ortega going for his own internet?

The exiled radio entrepreneur Aníbal Toruño, to whom the Orteguista dictatorship burned his radio and confiscated his assets in Nicaragua for reporting on the police repression against the 2018 protests, considers that beyond the interest collected and canceling licenses of radio and television, Ortega also seeks to pave the way for control of the Internet, as China, Russia, Cuba and other countries with authoritarian regimes do.

Toruño noted in particular Article 72 on the obligation for access and sharing of essential facilities, which will oblige operators and providers of telecommunications services to allow access to and sharing of their physical infrastructure, networks, network elements, resources and/or associated services and any other facility identified as essential to any other operator or provider of telecommunications services who so request.

Aníbal Toruño at the premises of his radio that was burned in 2018, for reporting the police repression against civil protests. 

For Toruño, that means, for example, that Chinese companies – to which Ortega is giving him wide advantages in the commercial space, could request to use existing infrastructure, such as antennas, to open their own telecommunications business.

Toruño also appreciated that Ortega could be contemplating in the future intervention in the infrastructure of Internet providers, to exercise its own controls.

When you have an international and a national provider, in the middle there are servers that are the delivery ports that receive the Internet, and those ports or delivery servers are currently in the hands of private. On the day (the dictatorship) they think of intervening, it would be necessary to see if that infrastructure can be had by the State, then the international provider would have to give to the state server the offer of the Internet that will occupy any of the cable or the national Internet providers, then it would be in front of basically the capacity that the State would have to be able to modify, block, modify, edit any website or ban specific content in the end, Toruño explained.

“My fear is that in this dynamic, Daniel Ortega wants to create a bubble of his own Internet in Nicaragua,” added the radio entrepreneur.

Both Núñez and Toruño recognized that in general this telecommunications bill is quite technical and contains normal regulations that all countries have, but because of the repressive and controlling nature of Daniel Ortega’s dictatorship, they do not hesitate that he can use it for social control, as he has done with all the laws he has been passing during his 17 years in power.

The Ortega dictatorship has closed and confiscated dozens of television radios and media, all of them critical of its regime. Censorship intensified after 2018, following civil protests calling for the departure of Ortega and his wife, Rosario Murillo, from power. In 2022, more than 20 Catholic-line radio stations were cancelled, in the midst of Ortega’s war against the Catholic Church that was the mediator of a failed national dialogue.

She was sent to consultation

On Tuesday, March 12, the Board of Directors of the National Assembly presented the initiative of “General Law on Converging Telecommunications” to the plenary and forwarded it to the Commission on Infrastructure and Public Services, where it will be consulted.

The ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) party, headed by Ortega, has full control of the Nicaraguan National Assembly, with a majority of 70 deputies, of the 91 totals, so they will have no obstacles to passing this new legislation. 

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in La Prensa NI