Internet Becomes a Luxury for Many Costa Rican Homes

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    The Costa Rica News (TCRN) – For 70% of the poorest households in Costa Rica, Internet is a luxury.

    Because they can not afford it or because their communities have no access, but the truth is that to lack fixed Internet at home is not just a matter of the poorest households in the country, although the data shows that there is a wide gap in access between the highest and lowest incomes.

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    According to the National Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2013, only 48% of households with incomes below ¢550,000 have a cable internet connection, phone, free wireless or mobile device. That is a bit over 400 thousand households.

    This data includes receiving any type of Internet and not necessarily need to have access to broadband (at least 2 Mbps), so that connections could be even minimal.

    For households with incomes less than ¢225,000, only 29% of them have connections, while in families with incomes of almost ¢2 million, it is 83%.

    In total, without categorization, 56.6% of households have a connection (fixed, mobile or wireless), these are more than two million people that have Internet in a country where 225,000 are unemployed.

    The costs of fixed Internet in Costa Rica with a minimum 2 Mbps connection are on average ¢15 thousand colones per month. So for many households this is a sum that represents a large percentage of their income.

    For mobile Internet the average cost is of ¢10, however, it brings along download restrictions and therfore it is not feasible in productive use of the network.

    In fact, the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) determined that the expense for the Communications Sector at home is about ¢40,000 per month, but also includes fixed and mobile telephony and cable television.

    Personal finance specialist, Javier Angulo believes that the Internet in homes has become a “luxury” service to basic number one such as electricity and potable water, but for some households paying food and other utilities is first.

    According to the Economist, 35% of a household’s income is used to pay housing, another 35% for food and the other 30% should be paying for public services, recreation, education and gasoline, so paying for a network connection can be sumptuous.

    Education: Connectivity

    Connectivity is now almost synonymous with education of development. The importance of not only knowing to read and write, but also to use digital tools is essential; to Rowland Evans, ex-Vice Minister of Telecommunication, this argument is questionable.

    “Connectivity is what opens the door to the human being as a productive individual. It can enhance human development, it can improve their income; today it is not enough to read and write. I would say the Internet is not a luxury, but a fundamental and indispensable complementary condition in the educational process,” said Espinoza.

    Recently, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) provided a regular qualification to the country regarding broadband. According to the report, the country is ranked 12th out of 26 countries analyzed, with a rating of 4.23 out of 8 possible points. The data is based on statistics and information of 2012.

    Referring to public policy, the country also got a middle score which was 4.92 points.

    Hope in Fonatel

    The state does not have the power to set preferential prices for the lower classes, but to bring the Internet to areas where there is no access.

    Currently, 7 projects funded by the National Telecommunications Fund are in work, administered by the Superintendency of Telecommunications.

    However, although this fund finances about 80% of the infrastructure, once it begins to provide the service, rates will be defined by the operators, so that the poorest households can not access the services.

    Therefore, from the Sutel people are working on a conceptual design to subsidize a percentage of the bill for the poorest households, according to income and number of members. But yet it does not have the certainty of implementation, although ¢50 billion are earmarked for this project.

    But that is not enough to Espinoza, who believes that only bringing infrastructure is a simplistic, minimal intention.. For him, it requires a comprehensive support including capacity, generating more inclusive content, accessible and subsidy terminals (computers, cell).

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