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                                   Hamadoun I. Touré
                                  Director, Telecommunication Development Bureau of

                                               International Telecommunication Union

                                It is with great pleasure that we present to you the final version of

                               Universal Service in the Americas. This report is the product of on-going
                               collaboration between the Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) of
                               the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the Inter-American
                               Telecommunications Commission (CITEL) of the Organization of American
States (OAS), and the Spanish-American Association of Research Centers and Telecommunications
Companies (AHCIET).

         Communications is an increasingly critical component of economic growth. It is the engine of the
evolving global information infrastructure. At the first World Telecommunication Development
Conference of the ITU (WTDC-94, Buenos Aires), the idea of a global information infrastructure was
launched. This was followed by notions of information superhighways and information societies.

         By the second World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-98, Valletta),
growth in the Internet and mobile communications had far surpassed industry predictions. Privatization,
competition and the establishment of independent regulatory bodies was starting to become the norm in
many ITU member states.

         But large differences in accessibility to telecommunication services around the world and within
individual nations had not improved and in some cases were exacerbated. This was highlighted by the
fourth edition of the World Telecommunication Development Report (WTDR-98) on the theme of
universal access. The report showed, inter alia, that information societies would never be achieved unless
universal access/service was attained.

         As we now begin the 21st century, vast pockets of humankind without access to basic
telecommunication services continue to exist. Like water, food, and shelter, access to communications
must also be a human right. We must work together to make this a reality for the Americas region.

         Effective policies must be put in place to achieve universal access/service such as: determining
concrete and practical definitions of universal access depending on each countries level of economic and
telecommunication development. Definitions may range from per household to community access (using
community telecenters); establishing network targets for privatized operators, or new operators;
maintaining or realizing affordability; creating effective funding mechanisms, and optimizing the use of
appropriate technologies.

         This report looks at universal access/service from the perspectives of the ITU, CITEL and the
WTO. It looks, in depth, at the legislation and policies employed by many of the countries in the
Americas region.

         Universal Service in the Americas is intended to serve as a reference tool to assist countries of the
Americas region in forming the best policies and practices with the goal of making universal
service/access available to all of the regions inhabitants.

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