Say you’re Mexico and you’re facing a big problem with kidnapping and extortion crimes. What do you do? Well, considering that unregistered and anonymous cellphones are being used to send messages and negotiate ransom terms, you could just up and pull the plug on cellular phone service throughout the country. For obvious reasons, that probably wouldn’t work out so well. The next best solution would be to force all legitimate cellphone subscribers in the country to register their identity with their respective carriers. That’s the exact option that Mexican legislators have chosen, but there’s now the real danger of having cellphone service for up to 30 million Mexicans terminated tomorrow, Saturday April 10.
The initiative to get mobile phone users in Mexico to register themselves with their carriers seems like a good way to thin out the masses of illegitimate subscribers in the country. Almost 12 months ago, to the day, Mexico enacted laws that would kill cell service on any account that remained unregistered by April 10, 2010 – the day that the government mandated all non-compliant wireless subscribers be cut off. The idea is that legit users would have no qualms with logging their identity into their carriers’ official records. Nefarious types would obviously avoid registering.
So, what’s the problem? Education. Despite advertising campaigns on government radio and TV broadcasts that urged citizens to register their handsets, there are still a significant proportion of Mexico’s mobile phone-using populace that has yet to do so. Those people will find their cell service gone with the wind, come Saturday. “Close to 30 million people will be affected … many of whom depend on mobile phones as their only means of communication,” according to America Movil’s head of institutional relations, Guillermo Ferrer.
To give customers more time to get legit, America Movil – which claims something like 71% of Mexico’s mobile phone market – has petitioned Mexican Senators to extend the deadline by another 12 months. Meanwhile, Telefonica has stated that it will continue to provide voice, SMS text, and data services beyond the deadline. “Telecommunications are of public interest, protected by the constitution … and they can not be denied to the population,” said the carrier.
So, if you’re reading this from Mexico, and you’ve yet to register your phone. Do it now. If you know anyone down there, give them a heads up. There’s still a chance that the deadline will be extended, but don’t count on it.