Latin America – This year, we celebrate the 140th anniversary of the first phone call by Alexander Graham Bell. “Mr. Watson, come here.” These words changed communication forever. Bell made the call in 1876 to his assistant Thomas Watson, who was standing in a nearby room. His invention was the foundation of the company that would become AT&T.
Since then, we’ve received 8 Nobel Prizes and more than 12,500 AT&T-issued patents worldwide. And now, we’re leading the world in the mobile Internet revolution. We’re proud of our past. And we’re excited for our future. We constantly evolve, leading the tech industry through a fundamental transformation. We want to connect our customers faster, more reliably and more securely than ever before.
Today, AT&T is delivering ubiquitous, mobile, fast and highly secure connectivity available to more than 400 million people and businesses in the United States and Mexico — a seamless, cross-border North American network that’s unique in the marketplace. We’re also looking to a world of entertainment everywhere. It’s why we bought DIRECTV. We now have highly efficient satellites capable of delivering HD and Ultra-HD video covering broad geographies in the United States and Latin America, from urban centers to rural villages.
DIRECTV is the leading satellite television provider in Latin America and the Caribbean with 20 million video connections in the region (including Sky Mexico). We are providing people with access to information and entertainment where others don’t reach, especially in rural areas. We are innovating with ways to bring service to low-income communities, such as being the first provider to offer pre-pay TV. Additionally, through various programs that make up “Generacion DIRECTV”, we’re supporting education and community activities through volunteering, our “Escuela Plus” programming and environmental programs.
Because of our diversity of operations, DIRECTV Latin America is also able to launch new technologies and innovative services in the region with highly competitive functionality and price. We’re featuring a wide selection of local and international digital quality video and audio entertainment.
The acquisition of DIRECTV Latin America and the addition of our Mexico operations substantially increased the magnitude of our international operations. Our customers are global and so are we. That’s why we continue to invest to ensure that we can provide integrated solutions that connect people and businesses around the world, with the information and entertainment that they want, wherever they want it.
When I travel in the Americas or in Europe, I am often asked how to promote investments in our sector. My answer is that for investing, innovating and delivering the solutions that will excel beyond consumers growing demands requires policies that look forward, not back.
As demonstrated by AT&T’s steadfast investment since 2011 of more than $140B in capital and acquisitions of wireless spectrum and operations, even throughout a challenging economic cycle, we’re determined to keep expanding the future opportunities the Internet creates for the economy, communities and customers.
We’re determined to keep innovating and encourage others to do the same. To achieve that goal, it’s important we have effective and modern regulatory frameworks. Frameworks that allow IoT to develop in a way that encourages economies of scale and adoption. Frameworks that allow for data to cross borders seamlessly. Frameworks that protect consumers and at the same time allow them to make their own choices.
Investment requires growth-oriented public policies. Given the rapid evolution of technology, it is critical that we set out high-level principles for international cooperation that can adapt with the pace of technology. And, avoid mandating or encouraging detailed new regulations that address the technical issues of today (or yesterday). No one knows with precision where technology and innovation will take us. To prepare for the future, we need to encourage, not control, the technology revolution. In short, we need to create a healthy policy environment that will drive continued investment and innovation. For us, continuing to do things the old way won’t work. We can say the same for policy-making.
In particular, for Latin America, we need a framework for the sector that reflects the modern marketplace. Today’s video marketplace is dynamic and competitive. The regulatory environment should promote fair competition and predictable consumer protection across the modern competitive landscape.
Additionally for the region, opposing signal theft and underreporting of pay TV subscribers is crucial. In March 2016, ALIANZA (an anti-piracy association of leading companies in the Latin American pay-TV industry) released a new report on online video signal theft in South America. The study found that of the approximately 222.3 million Internet users in South America, nearly 50%, or 110 million, accessed a site that distributed stolen audiovisual content by one of these means. The report also found that 789 petabytes of bandwidth usage in Latin America were attributable to users of cyberlockers, peer-to-peer video and illegal IPTV, representing an estimated 1.5 billion hours of viewing annually.
Some countries in the region have worked to create policies to help prevent these forms of theft, but there is still work to do to ensure timely and effective enforcement. Efforts to raise awareness through projects – such as the ALIANZA’s study – will also help support work to combat theft. The more we can do to educate, detect, and enforce signal theft rules, the more impact we can have on curbing its impact – and shifting resources to new services and innovation for consumers.
To conclude, I want to insist that the only constant is change. 140 years ago, we connected a telephone and launched the network. Today, we connect your car. Your home. Your luggage. Shipping containers. Wheelchairs. Lampposts. You name it. We’re continuing to reinvent technology in new and exciting ways. We’re looking towards a future that will demand instantaneous connectivity for everything — from homes to self-driving cars to virtual reality devices. We want technology to continue to be an engine of economic growth, individual empowerment, and infinite possibilities. We’re building a network of the future to address rapidly changing customer needs so we can deliver new and unique services quicker than ever before.
When we work together, the pace of innovation will accelerate in Latin America and the rest of the world. When we work together, we can deliver world-class services to our customers. Consumer expectations for communications that are mobile, ultra-fast and effortless will soar. Businesses will be more productive and improve services. We’ll create a network that grows with us all for the next 140 years and beyond.