Colombias Cable Licensing Screeches to a Halt

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Colombia's first-ever round of cable-systems licensing
is back to square one, frustrating those involved in what's been one of the most
anticipated cable-license auctions in Latin America.

In an 11th-hour move, Colombia's attorney
general pulled the plug on the process, accusing the National Television Commission (CNTV)
of not conducting the auction fairly.

In a written complaint to the CNTV, Attorney General Jaime
Bernal Cuellar listed a number of reasons why the licensing should be halted for now.

The CNTV's system for evaluating bids "did not
appear to consist of rules that were objective, fair, clear and comprehensive,"
Bernal Cuellar wrote.

CNTV spokeswoman Natalia Vargas would not comment on the
complaint, but she said the CNTV plans to relaunch the licensing process and to award new
licenses in April.

The decision to close down the existing process could not
have come at a more inopportune time, as it coincided with the CNTV's scheduled Nov.
5 announcement of all of the new cable-license winners.

Scrapping that process has come at a cost. Vargas said the
CNTV must pay back $18,000 in administrative fees that it collected from the bid
participants. The cancellation of the bidding, which comes on top of a series of
frustrating delays, has also succeeded in demoralizing those in the cable industry.

"It is such a disappointment, after all of the work
that we had put into getting our bid applications together," said Carlos Enrique
Velez, business director at Cable Sistemas, a small cable company based in Medellin.

Velez said he believed that the now-defunct licensing
process had been professionally carried out.

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