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Mexico may cut off 30 million cellphones under new registration law

April 8, 2010 |  5:07 pm

Cell phone mexicoAn estimated 30 million cellphone users in Mexico — including this reporter — may see their service cut Saturday if the government goes through with a new law that requires cellphones to be registered with the user's identity, Reuters reports.

Unlike most cellphone services in the United States, where contracts are usually signed between provider and customer, getting a cellphone line in Mexico requires nothing more than the cash. The Senate passed the cellphone registration law a year ago to combat organized crime, the idea being that if every cellphone is registered with the identity of its owner, it would help cut down extortion and kidnappings carried out from anonymous lines.

Providers, including behemoth America Movil, which operates as Telcel in Mexico and is owned by the "world's richest man," Carlos Slim, have been zapping out text messages to their customers. "Don't get disconnected!" said one that popped up on my tiny Nokia recently. "Remember that by law you must register your cell line before April 10, 2010."

Customers are directed to a government website (currently not loading properly) or to send the required information in a text reply. Blame procrastination and, for some Mexicans, privacy concerns for the high number of phone still to be registered. Crime bosses may also be reluctant to register.

Providers and some lawmakers have appealed to the Senate to extend the deadline on implementing the law. But officials say they're not budging. 

— Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

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