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Playing Telecom Monopoly

Playing Telecom Monopoly

Carlos Slim Helu is the richest man in the world. He owns almost all telecom companies (and a lot of other big chains) in South America. After buying his Carso Global Telecom into the North American telecom world, he now shifted his focus to Europe. Will the European telecom companies fall to Slim’s monopoly?

For years, Mexico has been criticised for the limited amount of freedom it secures its people with. According to the Freedom House – an internationally renown organisation that keeps yearly track records with regard to the degree of freedom in countries and in the world – the Mexican people are “partly free”. In the case of Mexico, this means that although political elections are mostly free and fair. The drug cartels and continuous violence still poses serious threats to the freedom of the Mexican people.

More relevant is how outspokenly negative the Freedom House is about the freedom of the press and the freedom of the net because of “[…] the targeting of journalists as well as communicators who used social media to bypass censorship in the traditional press”. Wtih regard to the freedom of the Net, the Freedom House deems Mexico “not free”.

According to the Freedom House, the main problem with freedom of the internet in Mexico is the fact that one owner, Carlos Slim Helu, is the provider for most of the internet in Mexico. This leads up to expensive internet and an infrastructure doesn’t work properly across the country, which complicates internet access for the people of Mexico.

Carlos Slim Helu is listed as the richest man in the world by Forbes since 2010. He owns practically all Telecom companies in South America, a good share of the companies in North America and since recently he turned his focus to Europe.

Recently, Slim bought his company into KPN, a major Dutch telephone company, and Telekom Austria AG, both for twenty-one percent. So, is Slim on his way to concur Europe? He is most certainly aiming for it, but for now he is no where near reaching for those ambitions. The mains telecom companies in Europe are France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom. In the case of the latter, the German Government has more than 50% of all shares, while France Telecom is owned for only 0.58% by company-owned shares.

Slim is playing a strategic game of Monopoly, with ‘hotels’ all over South America. For now, I would say we keep a close eye on him, since he is cleverly buying shares in the smaller European telecom companies. It seems that France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom are only just too big for him. So for now, Slim may have ‘hotels’ in South America, but only ‘streets’ in Europe.

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About Pia Dijkstra

Pia Dijkstra is a fourth year student of International Relations and International Organisation. She is currently finishing her bachelor's degree and has a specific interest in media and democratisation.

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