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Costa Rica Offers Free Internet Access 155

Dan Dragohn writes: "This past Thursday, Costa Rican President Miguel Angel Rodriguez inaugurated a system of free e-mail (& Internet) access for his country's entire population of 3.5 million in a program he said would soon be extended throughout the rest of Central America."
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Costa Rica Offers Free Internet Access

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  • People will pay for it through taxes, yes.

    But the US spends about $300 billion per year on military, and Costa Rica spends nothing. That's $1000 per year more of your taxes going to killing innocent Serbians. Maybe this could be better spent too, eh? :)

  • by HerringFlavoredFowl ( 170182 ) on Saturday June 03, 2000 @06:57PM (#1027367)
    bad idea because...

    1. cut's out the indivual in TCP-IP service providers.
    2. set's up a beuracracy that has no incentive to inovate.

    Just look at dialup in the US, unless we pay extra for a "decent" (open to debate) connection (DSL/Cable/T1/T3) we are stuck with a connection of marginal quality that may approach 56K when the moon is in proper alignment with Al Gore. Why, the Telco's have no incentive to expand the networks since it is a local call that they make no money on.

    Sadly, I think they will run into similar problems.

    Best of luck to them...
  • No it means what it says: I have never me a person from Arkansas or Appalachia. I live in California. My point is that the U.S. is a BIG country, and stereotyping is stupid.

    Funny that you mention:
    > "some of my best friends are
    > Jews/blacks/Hispanics/Asians/..."
    Because it is true for me. My best friend as a kid was Black. The Bass player in my band is Jewish, I am very close to him, his family, and several members of his Synagogue. And most of my neighbors are hispanic or Southeast-Asian.

    I am not exactly sure what you thought I was trying to justify?
  • by bubbles.utonium ( 195235 ) on Saturday June 03, 2000 @06:58PM (#1027369)
    Contrary to some replies posted in comments:

    1. Costa Rica is in Central America, NOT South America.

    2. The literacy rate is 93%. It's not some backwoods, third-world country.
  • First of all relax. Just because I don't believe the same thing you do does not make me evol (well maybe it does ). I do believe in a grey area just not the same one you do.

    I am not even going to justify your "aryan" remark. That has nothing to do with the topic and you were using it to start flame.

    Is an ISP a BASIC service? If the pore man gets it for free but I pay for a private company, do I still have to pay the taxes for that service? You bet I do. Is that wright? Why is the pore man more important than me?

    Relax man lets try to have an intelligent conversation with out being mean.

  • My point is that governments can have a positive impact, and further, that they can in fact create markets through their tremendous spending and regulatory powers. And it doesn't have to be the US government. One can argue about their efficiency, but that is different from the impact.

    The human genome project is another example where the government took a seemingly impossible task and saw it through.

    Part of this had to do with the barriers of entry to market. The same sort of analysis can be applied to Costa Rica. Even though it may seem like a usurping of private enterprise, if private enterprise sees barriers that are too high, a government interest to intervene in that market cannot dismissed without serious consideration.

    The real question is whether the government of Costa Rica will recognize the appropriate time to divest itself of such a service.
  • "Acquire an economy"? They have an economy; it might not be as strong as more developed nations, but it's a lot better off than any other country in central America.
  • Hmmm... this is just typical for something the Costa Rican government would to to increase its international reputation. After having lived there for six years, the strategy the Costa Rican government follows becomes quite clear: Come up with some eye-poppingly modern, incredibly democratic concepts to show off to the world that Costa Rica should be considered one of the havens of true Democracy. Far from it. First of all, we first have to see the system work to beleive it. Or, as a Costa Rican might put it: "Entre el dicho y el hecho hay un largo trecho" (There's a long trench between saying and doing something). Second, I beleive Costa Rica has many other problems to focus on that are WAY more important than Internet access for everyone (bollocks, it would only be for the top 10% of the population anyway. I want to see Don Miguel Angel implementing Internet Access in Los Chiles, on the Costa Rican/Nicaraguan border, yeah right!). Some of these problems are crime, teenage pregnancies, underage prostitution, and most of all, political corruption. These are things never really made internationally public, because they would hurt CR's reputation. Strangely enough, this attitude is followed by most of Costa Rica's citizens. If you want to get a more sincere look at Costa Rica, read <a href="">La Nacion</a>, the country's biggest newspaper, which does sometimes display a critical attitude towards politics in Costa Rica. To conclude, do not beleive what Costa Rican politicians make you want to beleive. While CR is a huge improvement over other Central American countries, it is far from being a true first world country, both socially, politically and mentality-wise, and internet access for everyone can not make a change by itself. It has to be backed by lots of other social improvements in the country to work.
  • We technologists seem to forget that government can play a positive role in our lives.

    For example, the reason you have a phone that can call across the country is that the government gave AT&T a monopoly. And while it wasn't the best for customer service, AT&T did provide a phone to everyone who could afford it (eventually just about everyone). A monopoly can be viewed as a government extension. And since Costa Rica doesn't have to create the technology or standards, they can jumpstart their usage of the Internet this way.

    Similarly, the Internet itself was a government and university effort 20 years. The web came out of the government.

    This is not to say that shortages of PCs (or pencils, for that matter) can be solved with Internet connectivity. But if it's part of a balanced program, it could be done. And of course, nothing is actually free when a government provides it.
  • this is the first real comment to the topic. it really makes me think, reading all these ignorant comments from us citizens on slashdot. now: posting just something without even having a clue what the thing is all about really makes me feel sad about the ignorance towards the rest of the world. the us are not the world. there is much more out there than your 52 states.
    and there is one thing i really have to say in this context. for most international issues (and there are many since the internet is an international thing) people here should stop thinking only in thier (poor) northern-american categories.
    having that said, let's return to the current issue:
    costa rica really did some pathbreaking things in latin america. it is not an incident that this country is sometimes called 'switzerland of central america'. and there are points, where i prefer cr to switzerland. the most important of these things being the lack of an army. this step made the country save many $$$, which can be invested in the local development.
    well, i have to admit that i have somehow missed the recent development in cr. anyway i will soon get up to date information from costa rican friends visiting me.
    and then: one last word regarding privatization (of telecommunications). i think it is a benefit not to privatize too quickly. mainly because of one major problem: who will get the market? aol? any other northern(-american) company? many of them? or a local company?

    you all know the answer, so do i!
  • Probably the biggest reason that they've avoided the military and pseudo-military coups that have plagued the rest of Latin America since the Spaniards were thrown out is that they got rid of their military some time ago and are now constitutionally prohibited from having a military. They still have a pretty strong national police, but still... not the same. Interesting idea, and even more surprising that it works given that some of the nations around are not always stable or benevolent.
  • >Similarly, the Internet itself was a government and university effort 20 years. The web came out of the government.

    The internet was developed by the US government and universities, but the web was not. The web was developed in Geneva, at the CERN, by a Brit. (IIRC)
  • The web was developed in Geneva, at the CERN

    Yep, but CERN is funded largely [entirely?] by European governments.
  • Not having a STRONG military?

    They have no military at all. I believe that's been the case for about 50 years.

    They DO have high tax rates though. Guess that's what pays for this...
  • 'Generous' people take your money and spend a little bit of it on you.

    And on people who have no money, and on their families. $1000 probably makes little or no difference to you, but to kids in a single parent family it can be the difference between misery and a reasonable life. A lot of people on slashdot seem to forget that such families exist.
  • Natural boundries. There's mountain and ocean on all sides, and it would have been difficult up until recently (with air technology) to be invaded. Luck, perhaps, but Costa Rica is a diamond in the rough.

    The Good Reverend
  • OK, gotta reply to that.

    One of the social work profs from my university (in the USA) was in Costa Rica and was in a meeting between CR gov't officials and US AID (Agency for International Development) staff.

    The issue was squatters hogging certain landowner's land. US AID offered to pay to help CR "exterminate" (kill) them!

    CR official's responce: "We can't do that - we're a democracy!"

    OK, most other L.A. gov'ts *are* corrupt, but there are some exceptions. CR is among them.
  • It's one thing to compete with private, low quality, free ISPs. But another to compete with your government.

    True. The "correct" way for a government to do this without killing the market is to act as a consumer. I.e., not provide internet access themselves, but offer to pay $20/month to to anyone who buys internet access. That way there's still competition between ISPs and inefficient ones'll die out.
  • I find this deeply disappointing.

    I would best describe Costa Rica's economic/social system as something like the Netherlands. It has pockets of absolute freedom and pockets where the government controls everything. The country does have national health care and social security and a pretty good educational system. It has a tiny coast guard and essentially no militiary which is why it has been able to spend money on human services...bringing a fairly good standard of living for central america. The biggest industry is tourism (a new phenomena, about ten years old) then agriculture.

    It's socialism is however at times rampant. Costa Ricans are for instance paid in 13th month cycles (meaning they get one month's worth of pay free yearly.) I have heard anecdotally that this has led to the ruining of the exchange rate of the Colon versus the dollar. (Since no one is actually working for the money.) Strangely enough, the National Assembly has an elected go figure. As someone pointed out, Costa Rica regularly gets hundreds of millions of dollars from the US government, but my understanding is that this is used mostly to cover interest on debt payments. The national debt as a percentage of GDP is huge, a result of deficit spending to cover the country's social security system.

    With respect to technology, Costa Rica is ahead of most 3rd world nations (and some say that Costa Rica is no longer a 3rd world nation, but something higher.) Intel makes the Celeron processor in a fabrication plant in Costa Rica, and that has brought in other high-tech industries, of which I can't name a single damn one, but anyway. I have no idea how high computer ownership is, but it is not uncommon for someone to own a computer in the capital city.

    Costa Rica's main problem though won't be helped by this idea, in fact it will be hurt even more. The telephone and electric system is completely government run. The president has tried to privatize it, but labor unions and students went crazy preventing it. This is a shame because the telephone system is severely inadequate in many ways. There are stories of two year delays in getting telephone wiring to new homes...(although I have heard that this is now down to about six weeks on average.) Cellular phone companies , which saved some countries from their government run telephone systems, are also government run. This was not the case, until several years ago, when the government went on a socialist rampage and closed down the private cell phone companies. Not only was this enormously stupid, but it put a lot of people in danger, since there were many people in rural areas who only had cell phones because it was so difficult to get land lines installed.

    There are *no* private ISP's in Costa Rica. If you want service, you get it from RACSA. And really, RACSA is just a division of ICE, the phenomenally backwards electric and telephone company. Funny enough, there are a bunch of cable companies in the main city hooking up coaxial everywhere...I hope some of it is in the form of fiber optic line. Looking at the RACSA homepage ( it seems that the cost right now of internet service is about $1/hr. Since RACSA is government owned anyway, the difference between making it free and charging may not be all that much as things go budget wise.

    However, it does mean that the government is still going to be running their internet system, which is based on their lame telephone system. And on top of that, they will be drawing into the national treasury in order to do it. That means that the vast majority of Costa Ricans will be paying so that the minority can have internet service, who were able to afford it anyway.(No matter what anyone says, computer literacy may be high, but it's not that high.)

    This is socialism at its worst. RACSA and ICE need to be privatized so that telecommunication costs can take a huge drop and internet service can become significantly more affordable and universal. That will have more of an effect than this plan.
  • Yea, sorry about that. I was trying to link to Stinkymeat but I couldn't remember the address offhand. But you can't dispute that the Stile project is a wonderful example of diversity on the Internet


  • Otra persona que no sabe nada.

    You are so completely ignorant! Costa Ricans are mainly descended from Spaniards. They are differ...oops... I almost forgot. You are an a-coward.

  • First, it's geographically difficult.

    Second, because there isn't a hell of a lot to gain by invading it.

    Third, because they have a defensive understanding with the United States.

    And fourth, because their diplomatic neutrality meant the USSR/Cuba had no incentive to support a war there despite the US-Costa Rican understanding.

    Steven E. Ehrbar
  • The notion that we should all have 'equal access' seems short-sighted to me. People should acquire the level of access they want. Heavy users should pay more, light users should pay less. That won't happen if it's all given to us for free by the government.

    But you absolutely missed the point you were replying to!

    The poster was talking about geographic equal access, as his road analogy makes clear. Private companies don't have the incentive to extend equal levels of access to everyone everywhere-- they will concentrate in the more populated and affluent areas.

    In the case of phone service, for example, there have been countries where the government has bought private phone cos. because the companies wouldn't provide decent service to all of the country.

  • Here is the article on a Costa Rican Newspaper. I've always seen Costa Rica as a better country than mine, and I see that Free Internet for Costa Ricans is very good, lots of people have their families living in the US and need to communicate with them, free email/internet will help them a lot. Here in Honduras there is a company ( just started to give free Internet To have a dedicated 128 K line here you have to pay 1200$/month. The only Telecommunication company owned by the government is called Hondutel [], the good thing is that right now Hondutel is going to a privatization process (France Telecom, Telmex or Telefonica) might buy Hondutel.
  • Hmmn I also believe it is bad for a couple of other reasons that relate to paranoia.

    Given the big brother stuff lets think about that. Hmmn? Give every American Free Internet access. As the previous poster mentioned its govt regulated now, no true competition.

    Whats worse is now so few people would want to use something they can get for free and lets face it most people dont care for a massive internet so its prolly still gonna use phonelines.

    Total Internet Content Control in America. How does that sound? It is frighteningly easy to happen if everyone started using Free Internet. Oh well

    Place your conspiracy theory below as a reply :)
  • And to tell you the truth, it will ALWAYS be money before people, as that is human nature.

    It always amuses me when someone claims a recent cultural invention to be part of "human nature". Do you consider agriculture part of human nature, too?

    Why can we not get along and RESPECT each other's cultures. The citizens of the United States have a different culture from Europeans. Let us not resort to a flame war over which economic system is better. Remember, love not hate.

    This attitude conveniently glosses over the fact that the economic system of the US generates enormous wealth for a privileged few, and huge misery for billions.

    Your demand for "respect" for the US culture and economy makes no sense if the US culture and economy systematically attacks and undermines those of most of the rest of the world.

  • Sorry to disapoint you, but it has been happening in a more developed country, just a bit up north, in Canada. There is a program in the province of Quebec that helps families get connected by paying most (if not all) the internet fees for one or two years (don't remember). They also pay a part of the computer. I hope the rest of Canada follows.
  • that Costa Rican users will be able to surf the internet free of charge over the next six months, through a pilot project in which municipal governments will regulate the time local users can spend on the system, based on demand in each locale.

    really this is just great, you get everybody in Costa Rica using this service and everybody will be on for 10 seconds at a time. I mean does this count for people who have money to pay for internet acces? Are they regulated based on demand too?, even if they have the money to pay for internet access, it seems like a stupid plan to me. Get everybody using the internet sure. But don't mention the fact that you can only stay on for 30 seconds.

  • A general comment on privatization:

    Merely taking a government agency and turning it into a private company doesn't help the situation. It actually makes it worse, because now they're a monopoly who can be blatantly self-interested with no restraint. At least a government agency ostensibly has oversight, ultimately by the voters (I know I know, big problems there but way beyond the scope of this note). A private monopoly has no oversight and zero incentive to provide a good product or service.

    For privatization to be an improvement, effective competition has to be part of the picture. No matter where you fall on the government-vs.-free-market debate, almost anyone would agree that a private monopoly is worse than either a government agency or a competitive free market. Anyone pushing for privatization needs to remember that and to incorporate competition into any plan for privatization.

    Nothing against the post above, just bringing up a point that's usually overlooked.

  • Developing nations, many of whom don't have consistant proper sanitation, transportation, telephone access, and a host of other problems are being handed universal internet access? Are their governments going to start voting for more bread and circuses next? I suppose they are only doing this because it would be relatively cheap and flashy as opposed to actually fixing their countries problems...

  • And also because neighboring countries have enough problems of their own to worry about, and are close to the USA.

    Nicaragua may have been able to take it (or try to) under Somoza, but Somoza and the US officials were good buddies. Had he tried to take CR, I doubt the USA would be too pleased with him.

    And during the 80s, the Nicaraguan Sandanistas had far too much to worry about in their own country without trying to take another.

    Panama is/was also closely tied to the USA so they would also be "discouraged".
  • After spending most of my life living in Canada all I can say is that sociallized programs and government subsidized services stink. Yes the price is great but the quality is pitiful. It is a great idea to give Internet Access to the masses but in our Capitalistic World the incentive will not be enough to provide quality. For quality you need competition not a "monopoly".

    Nathaniel P. Wilkerson
    NPS Internet Solutions, LLC []
  • the U.S. is the number one wired country in the world, followed by Canada.

    No, I believe Finland is, and Norway and Sweden and New Zealand are above the US. In per capita terms, that is; of course the US has the most internet users.
  • Why the fuck is my country giving $700 million

    Er ... not to make up for all the environmental damage you're all causing, I presume?
  • But don't mention the fact that you can only stay on for 30 seconds.

    30 seconds internet access per day is quite enough to make good use of email and usenet. Of course, that requires that you have a computer to use during the time that you're not online.
  • Eliminates choice. The government is the worst monopoly of them all. [...] Allows for government control in the private sector [...] Kills private business

    These are all valid concerns. However most of them can be avoided if the government does not actually run an ISP itself. If it just offers to pay up to a certain amount of your ISP bill, this doesn't destroy the ISP market or give the government particularly good opportunities for censorship.

    Of course, even if the government *does* run an ISP, it may be good on balance, if significantly many people get internet access who wouldn't have been able to afford it otherwise. You trust the government to run schools for this reason [I presume] so why not ISPs?

  • I personally feel that the rights of the individual are more important than the benefits of the group.

    This is bad in three ways
    1) Eliminates chose. The government is the worst monolopy of them all.
    2) Allows for government control in the privat sector. If the government if providing it they can filter it who is to stop them? The government?
    3) Kills private business This takes away my freedom. If I want to be an ISP it would be very difficult to do it in this system

    NOTHING is free. In this system people pay for it weather they want it or not. Some people pay for it more than others. The people that have more pay more taxes. What if your ISP said to you " Well you make 80k so we are doing to charge you $60 a month for your service if you made 40k you would only have to pay $30"? It would probably make you mad.

  • Do you actually know where Costa Rica is? Have you ever been there? Have you read up on its literacy rate, GDP growth rate, culture, system of government or the ratio of physicians to population? Have you any idea about what you are talking about whatsoever?

    Or did you just stereotype the whole of south and central America as one homogenous starving cesspit that you don't want to know about because it isn't America, doesn't have a mall in every town, and doesn't pump out 25% of the world's polution despite having only 5% of the population?

  • Yat another bigotted and ignorant comment. Perhaps before you characterise the whole of south and central America as third world, you might take the time to find out what you are talking about. Costa Rican literacy rate is over 90% - only a couple of points behind America. Shucks, that means you were talking out of your arse. Better luck next time

  • by 575 ( 195442 )
    Off-topic? Bullcrap
    Some moderate smoking crack
    This post is valid
  • Why do they need a literacy program when the literacy rate is only just below that in the US? Do you actually know nothing about the subject you choose to discuss?

    You do make an interesting point about the desire for information being irrespective of wealth, though most people could have told you that anyway.

  • by cancrman ( 24472 ) on Saturday June 03, 2000 @06:34PM (#1027407) Homepage
    Everyone is always saying that America is "The King" of the internet (or some words to that effect), maybe if more countries start something like this program that won't be the case anymore. A little more diversity on the Internet wouldn't be a bad thing. Oh yea, stile project [] doesn't count.

    Do I see this happening in more developed Western nations? No, for the same reason that the DMCA and the UTICA bills were passed - the almighty bottom line. There is no way that America or any other country with a signifigantly developed economy would implement something of this scale. But then again do we really need "Internet Welfare"? I don't think so, but that's another story for another day.


  • Perhaps "enslavement" in the physical sense sounds too paranoid, but I still think they exert a degree of control over our lives beyond what can be morally and ethically taken by any government that represents itself as "by the people, of the people, and for the people."
  • ...Americans exhaust themselves at work, then have no energy for anything else. Ditto here in Canada. I hear it's the same way in Japan and Germany, and in all of the countries with the highest productivities.

    Work makes you stupid, but leisure makes you weak. None of their "cultural and philosophical awareness" gets them longer lifespans, higher technology, or military significance. If you told me they had a higher percentage of scientific literacy, I might think they were on to something, but culture is idle amusement and philosophy is masturbation; a bit of either is acceptable, even beneficial, but when they start cutting into your working hours, it is decadence.

    I know, we all enjoy mocking our homelands, but confusing strength and weakness too often makes your brain soft.
  • by PopeAlien ( 164869 ) on Saturday June 03, 2000 @06:36PM (#1027410) Homepage Journal
    ..but then again I'm from a semi-socialist country (Canada)..

    "Today we become the first society in the world in which email is free and open to all," the Costa Rican president said in a speech at the headquarters of the state-run Costa Rican Postal Service, which together with the state-run Radiografica Costarricense (Racsa) will be implementing the program, dubbed

    Um.. This sounds a bit like hype.. I don't know about the States, but up in the frozen north we can walk into a public library, or the occasional coffee shop and use any one of the 'free' web based mail services...
  • To add to the above post: what about hotmail? is that not free? Free internet access is already available in Australia through companies like and in Australia - well, at least, free in the sense that all it takes is a local phone call!
  • Run that through babelfish and it sounds suspiciously close to the name of this website. Methinks they are trying to confuse the readers of Slashdot and steal their business by infringing on their god given trademark rights. Just because it is in a different language is no excuse. It still means the same thing.

    Roblimo, I think perhaps you had better notify's squadron of lawyers so they can start composing nastygrams to send to these trademark pirates.


  • You're defending people you've never met!

    I'm an american, and I've met people from Arkansas and the west Appalachian area and he's right!

    Fact is, ignorance knows no bounries and permiates all walks of life and areas of pursuit. The real shame is, we didn't learn this earlier before we elected him president.


  • Sure, the people have free internet access, but how many of these people have computers to begin with?

    -- Dr. Eldarion --
  • by SsC ( 119431 ) on Saturday June 03, 2000 @06:39PM (#1027415) Homepage
    People will be able to " the internet free of charge over the next six months..." -- okay, but what happens after that? Who gets left holding the bag? Do I have to support it if I don't use it?

    Also, "...municipal governments will regulate the time local users can spend on the system, based on demand in each locale...". It sure would suck to be kicked off while writing a message because demand is so high that you only get about two minutes a pop. Wonder how they're rating/measuring this?

    Today's lesson: Sunblock. Shouldn't have left home without it. ( ~sizzle~ )
  • well, well, well this looks like a great way for them to control the countrys e-mail and internet access dosen't it..
  • are the telcos really going to give up on charging for telephone-use ? what are they going to live from when everybody is phoning over IP ? would be really great news though.
  • ...that a third world country accomplishes this before the US or Canada?

    Internet access is so cheap now, it would cost pennies/person for the government to do something like this and it would probably pay for itself in economic benefit many times over, not to mention increase the average intelligence level of our society.

  • Two things...

    1) Despite what we 24-hour net users and pundits might have us believe, net access lies a bit down there on Maslow's ol' heirarchy. This is a nice symbolic and attention-getting move but barely substantive when it comes to improving the standard of living.

    2) So the government will provide these services free of charge. That also mean they can deny it at will if some future government sees fit, and the potential is tremendous for monitoring, censoring, and other supervisory actions. Even in a "free" society like the US, there is government abuse of its own systems and programs. It does and will continue to happen elsewhere. Even as this program is announced, "municipal governments will regulate the time local users can spend on the system". Highest bidder, anyone?
  • You know absolutly nothing about Costa Rica or Mexicans, or else you wouldn't say such garbage. What a bad statement, but then again, nothing is as bad as an Anonymous Coward.
  • and they are not the only one testing the internet waters, check out this article [] on wired [] about India's use of the web help the farmers of the country...

  • Oh goody, now Costa Ricans can Make Money Fast, just like the rest of us!

    The problems with this proposal is that it will suffer the same problems as any free good provided by the government.

    1. It is not actually free. People will pay for it through taxes. People will also have to pay for all that lovely government bureaucracy that goes along with it. (That, according to David Friedman [], makes government-provided services cost about twice as much as those provided by the private sector.)
    2. If there's no pricing, there's no incentive for individuals to limit their own usage. The government will have to start rationing. So hardworking entrepreneurs trying to sell their wares on the net will get as much time as the slackers surfing for porn and wacking off. Perhaps even more time depending on how rational the rationing scheme is.
    3. And let's not even talk about how wonderful tech support will be from a government agency!

    Also, I wonder how much benefit raw internet access brings to people in a third world country. Anyone have any direct experience with this?

    Why doesn't Costa Rica do something cool like a rebel outpost on the fringes of cyberspace []?

    -- Diana Hsieh

  • Administered by the Gov't and OWNED by the Gov't are different things. In a socialist society, the government would create the infrastructure needed for this system, which would be fairly expensive and lead to a larger government.

    The likely solution in the U.S. would still be government control, as they have a (semi) workable system that extends across the country (which is the aim of the program) and can afford to operate at a loss because of other sources of income, namely funds extracted from the populace by the barrel of a gun. (Oops, sorry, was that opinion?) The difference would be that the government would contract the services out, paying private firms to provide the services for free the to populace.

    Either that, or I need a refresher course in Comp. Gov't, which is also possible. :-)

  • So...does this mean we should be looking out for more posts "en espanol" in the future? ~Matt
  • i guess it really comes down to how you define "Administered"
  • You are FUCKING lucky you're an anonymous coward.

    "The first step is education." - how ironic....

  • In Portugal every ISP has a free access fot those who don't care too much about speed or phone rates. There are at least 3 free providers (that I recall, probably more). None is from the government, all of them are from private groups competing in the communications market. None is ADD supported either.
  • This is why it is important.
  • Why did I get moderated down as "Overrated" when nobody had moderated me up in the first place?


  • The number one language is Mandarin Chinese. Number two is English.

    Guess what number three is.

  • That's funny because it was the government that originally funded Telecommunications in Australia.

    First it was part of Postmaster's General, then that split in half to become Telecom Australia and Australia Post and then it was renamed Telstra and now that 49.9% of Telstra has been sold so the government has also allowed for Telstra to become a monopolly.

    Melbourne, Australia
    ICQ 19255837

  • hehe good point.
  • ahh but private ownership could charge any fee they wanted to. Then you could have contracts with pricing plans (perhaps free nights and weekends, but expensive long distance travel) and it would become more of a circus than the cell phone market.
  • Firstly: You seem to have forgotten what drives everything. That is money. When you put people before money you don't get invention. And to tell you the truth, it will ALWAYS be money before people, as that is human nature.

    Yep - we all know Linus only created his kernel to get rich, selling copies of his binary-only OS...

    Secondly: Why can we not get along and RESPECT each other's cultures. The citizens of the United States have a different culture from Europeans. Let us not resort to a flame war over which economic system is better. Remember, love not hate.

    I agree - both systems have some merit, and neither is perfect.

    Incidentally, anyone arguing in favour of govt. involvement should just look at British Telecom; having been privatised for 16 years now, we still have the same appalling prices and service, it still has 86% of the market. As a result, most people still pay for Net access by the minute - at up to 4p (about 6 cents) per minute. Unmetered access is supposed to be happening - by the end of this year, for about $30-40 per month. ADSL should cover 25% of the country by the end of the year, but costs $60/month. Wonderful.

    A government monopoly may look like a good way to kick-start the service - but once it has served its purpose, it can take a very long time to dispose of.

  • There's actually a company called Rhinopoint [] that's doing something similar to this--paying people's ISP fees if they agree to answer a survey a month. Nationwide ISP Pro-USA [] is one of their partners in this, and I get my dialup internet access free as a result. (Good for all platforms--Windows, Mac, and Linux!)
  • More like agriculture, textiles, electronics, plastics, etc.
  • I'm an american, and I've met people from Arkansas and the west Appalachian area and he's right!

    Wow, what a brilliant insight. You've obviously met all the people from Arkansas and Appalachia, so you're able to reaffirm a Costa Rican who's never been there's stereotype of a good chunk of the US.

    What do you suppose the odds are that your average Arkansan or Appalachian makes enough money to buy his *own* internet access, and doesn't need his government to provide it for him?

  • the neighbouring countries? Given that the military in that part of the world is not above doing a coup, why do they hesitate to invade an army-less neighbour, now would they? Yes, I know, normally the government decides on who to wage war with, but after a coup the military is the government.
  • If I take $50 / month away from you and then give you a 56kbps internet connection, did you just get a free internet connection ?

    If not, than neither will the people in Costa Rica.

  • Yes, military significance is so important...
    ...WHY?!?! Costa Rica got rid of its military to pay for schemes like this, and yet it isn't being attacked. Strange, that, almost makes you wonder why 'better' countries need their shiny guns.

    Costa Rica seems like it's on to a good thing there- more leisure time = less stress = happier workforce = better productivity = more leisure time &c.

    Do not underestimate the combined powers of happiness and human relations.

  • You cannot ask a question like, "What is it like in South America?" South America is not, despite what Ronal Reagan thought, one big country. Each country is different. Cuba (well, Latin America, anyway), for instance, has near-100% literacy but a horrible lack of basic supplies like medicine due to the U.S. embargo. Brazil, though, faces massive poverty and illiteracy. Each of the others has its own story.
  • I was just about to post this same info. When I lived there, the literacy rate was 92% (1987-1989).

    If backwoods means no disposable income, then there would be use for places to spend disposable income.

    Hmm. I do know that in Costa Rica you will find: Macdonalds, Pizza Hut, Dominos Pizza, Taco Bell, KFC, Hardys, Burger King, and other major restaurant chains, Mercedes Benz, BMW, Cheverolet, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, etc., numerous computer shops, a couple amusement parks, and more big shopping malls than necessary to support 3.5 million people.

  • According to Worldbank [] data there were 39 personal computers for every 1,000 people in 1988. For comparison the US had 459 per 1,000 and Canada had 330 per 1,000.

    And with a per capita GNP of less than $3,000, Dell is not likely to see a surge of business out of this.
  • by rgmoore ( 133276 ) <> on Saturday June 03, 2000 @07:14PM (#1027446) Homepage
    2. The literacy rate is 93%. It's not some backwoods, third-world country.

    Costa Rica is a considerable anomaly among the countries in Latin America. Costa Rica has cleverly avoided the military coups that have been the scourge of much of the rest of Latin America by not having a strong military. They've then taken the savings and plowed a lot of it into social programs. The combination of stable government and good social progams has made Costa Rica about the most successful country in Latin America. Free internet access is just a continuation of the general trend toward enlightened government.

  • by GringoGoiano ( 176551 ) on Saturday June 03, 2000 @07:16PM (#1027447)
    They might not have as many computers per capita as in US/Canada, but I'd say the general education level in Costa Rica, and general Central/South America is quite good. Literacy rates (from ry.html), smattering of countries: NORTH AMERICA US -- 97% Canada -- 97% Mexico -- 89% CENTRAL AMERICA Costa Rica -- 95% Honduras -- 73% Nicaragua -- 66% SOUTH AMERICA Brazil -- 83% Argentina -- 96% Colombia -- 91% Chile -- 95% Peru -- 89% Uruguay -- 97% CARIBBEAN Cuba -- 96% Haiti -- 45% I grew up in Brazil and Uruguay. Most Latin Americans take education seriously. You'll find the average person-on-the-street not only more literate, but more culturally and philosophically aware than your average American joe. In the U.S. we learn what we need to for work and turn to aimless isolating entertaining selfish pursuits after-hours. Latin Americans (like Europeans) are better prepared to function as members of society. Of course, that's not a goal for many here, YMMV.
  • are the telcos really going to give up on charging for telephone-use ? what are they going to live from when everybody is phoning over IP ?

    Given that the telco is a government monopoly, you can bet that they'll be happy to do whatever the politicians tell them to. Phone over IP may well be viewed positively. It's theoretically more efficient, which may wind up saving the government money- definitely a good thing.

  • ...just look at British Telecom...

    It's not as if BT has a UK wide monopoly across the whole of the UK anymore. People do have a choice of Telco's wherever they are in the UK. Unmetered access via. BT happened as off last Friday, too FYI.

    BT's supposed monopoly seems to come down to the fact that people are too lazy to change, but still complain about the price/service etc.

    Disclaimer: I work for BT, and am posting this from a BT computer, in a BT office. My views are my own, not those of my employer.
  • How "inexistent" is the Costa-Rican army actually?

    Do they have a strong police?

    How do they battle drug traffickers, and foreign guerrillas?

    (Amusing fact: at the end of "Jurassic Park", we see the Costa-Rican Air Force helicopters flying to destroy every rest of dinos from Isla Nubla. But there is not CR Air Force!)
  • The ISPs would oppose it, but do you think the 0x3e9 commerce sites would mind if the government helped get them customers?
  • I think your point about ignorance of other cultures/countries is well taken. I have always had a very positive view of Costa Rica. And I know that CR is in Central not South America.

    But then you wrote:
    > Costa Ricans may not be MIT grads, but they're
    > not from Arkansas or the Appalachian either!
    > Not all Americans are as sharp as tacks:
    > Remember that!
    You lost me right there. There are certainly ignorant people in the U.S. But most people are not. I've lived in the U.S. for 28 years and I have never even met a person from Arkansas or Appalachia.

    I guess my point is that stereotyping Americans is no better than stereotyping or being ignorant of Costa Ricans. I don't really understand why people find this necessary. If people are mistaken they should be corrected, but never insulted.

    There are certainly plenty of opportunities to be critical of the U.S. and the actions of some of its citizens. But the U.S. is as diverse as any place in the world. I live on the same street with people of African, Asian, Latin American, and European decent.

    I am as annoyed with people who live outside the U.S. stereotyping my country as people outside the U.S. are sick of being misunderstood. Your letter is certainly not the worst offender here on Slashdot. I chose to respond to you because you made a good point but felt it necessary to throw on an unneeded insult that did exactly the kind of thing that your comment was supposed to be correcting.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 03, 2000 @07:22PM (#1027463)
    I'm an American living in Costa Rica and internet access is hardly free here. Bandwidth is much more expensive than in the USA. For example, I am paying $1,800/month for a dedicated 128K line. All connections here must go through the local government-owned telephone monopoly, which is in serious need of competition. Compared to the US, the service sucks. Bribery is the quickest way to get something done (and even that does not always work). Competent and reliable help is hard to find. I have been trying to get a T-1 for several months, but the telco continues to delay and give me excuses (the latest one being, "We're out of T-1 modems"). I used to think that dealing with USWest was a pain, but they're nothing compared to idiots who work for the phone company here. The plan for "free" internet access is simply to allow email at certain public facilities. Not a big deal. You can find better free access in the USA. Costa Rica tried to pass a bill to privatize the telco/internet company, but the unions complained and they ended up with a half-assed bill that no likes or understands. Privatizing the telecom stuff has been the goal of the current president (I met with him about a year ago to discuss it). Unfortunately, he has not been able to get the political support to accomplish it. The politicians here are no different and are just as short-sighted as the ones back home. Much of the population here has been brainwashed to see government as the solution to all their problems (even more so than the US). Many can't even imagine a telephone service that is privately operated. However, if they ever do see the light and open things up to competition in telecommunications, this country could become a true data haven.
  • 2 ISPs in Singapore offered freee Internet access since December 1999. It has bought about increased usage and further accelerated the IT savvyness of its people. In addition the whole country is Broadband ready with ready access to ADSL / Cable Modem. [JASON@CHAW]
  • Isn't it kinda hard to criticize a group of people (Americans in this case) about their lack of knowledge of the rest of the world (which might or might not be a fair statement), and then turn around and show how you don't know much about them either? America doesn't have 52 states, not yet anyway, even if you count Puerto Rico, which you can't.

    While on one hand I agree that the Interent is too US-centric, I think you need to recognize that it's natural for people to think in local terms, and this doesn't exclude Americans. Now this doesn't mean to ignore the rest of the world -- not by any means -- and it's very reasonable to ask for I18N of big sites and services.

    But complaining that Americans ignore the rest of the world is a cheap shot to begin with, and you scuttle it by showing that you don't know any more about us than we know about your country. If you want to find ways to bridge that gap, you can do better than that, can't you? Can't we, I should say?

    Yo conosco puedamos, si mi amigo? (Lo siento, mi espanol esta muy mal...)

  • ISP's are very pleased about that. People connect to regular ISP's and the government pays them back. The only people eligigle, of course, are the ones who already recieve "allocations familiales".
  • by Mr. Flibble ( 12943 ) on Saturday June 03, 2000 @06:41PM (#1027491) Homepage
    Very interesting. Its a good idea: Free access to information. The problem that I see is the overall lack of computers in South America. Sure, rich families will have them, but most people will not. Still as the article says, terminals will be installed in public areas.

    Again, though, how many people will use them? Here in Canada the level of literacy is (IIRC) about 80%. What is it like in South America? You cannot use the internet without a functional ability to read.

    With the spread of this idea it gives all the more reason to donated your used systems to South American countries, its better than sending them to landfill. I know that there was an organization here in Canada that was sending used systems to Cuba (yes, its Central America...)

    If "free" (donated) PC's begin to become common, I wonder what OS they will use? I sure hope its a free [] one. Competition [] would still be good too.
  • we can walk into a public library, or the occasional coffee shop and use any one of the 'free' web based mail services...

    Good point! As a Canadian as well I had forgotten about that. I have cable at home, so why use the internet anywhere else?

    I read an interesting statistic the other day, I forget the exact figures, but the U.S. is the number one wired country in the world, followed by Canada. Canada however, has more broadband access than the U.S. per capita.

    Still, as per your point, the internet is avalible to anyone who wants to use it here, but not every one uses it, nor, as I mentioned in my other post, can everyone read...
  • "Why doesn't Costa Rica do something cool like

    Now that is interesting!

    Although "Sealand" sounds suspiciously like "Sea World" ;-)

  • by RhaggaMuffin ( 196356 ) on Saturday June 03, 2000 @07:52PM (#1027498)
    As a Costa Rican, I'm amused by most (not all) of the replies associated with Costa rica obtaining free Internet/email. Many of which are prime examples of ignorance and a lack of knowledge towards other countries. Costa Rica (CR) is in Central America not South America. It's literacy rate is in the 90 percentile. Although some farmers still use animals to plow their land I don't think McDonalds, Dole or Chiqitta do. And last I checked, Intel and other chip firms have and are still building new chip facilities in CR to support the US market. A location which was chosen based on literacy rate, population income and tax breaks as usual. Back to the point of free Internet/email service for the masses. Is this good? Yes, but not many can take advantage of it. After all, you need a computer first. And not many of my Costa Rican comrades feel that computers are essential outside of work. Costa Rica encourages living stress free and spending time with your family. You might be broke, but you're a happy broke person. Is it paradise? Far from it, but the folks can teach people a thing or two about what's really important in life. Don't fall for any of this PR crap folks. It's just posturing by the president to look good in the eyes of his people as well as the US. Possibly to get additional US $$$ aid. Costa Ricans may not be MIT grads, but they're not from Arkansas or the Appalachian either! Not all Americans are as sharp as tacks: Remember that!
  • "...not to mention increase the average intelligence level of our society."

    And how would that help current governments retain their hold on power? If anything, they enslave us through our collective stupidity.

  • It doesn't have to do with developed vs. undeveloped countries.

    It's all about capitalistic vs. not-so-capitalistic countries.

    Do you honestly think that our ISP's would allow the US government to provide free internet access? I admit that the tech industry has been slow to start lobbying, but they would learn quickly if the gov hinted at offering free internet service.

  • Free bandwidth is one thing. What percentage of the country owns computers?

    I'll bet that even in the US, which has one of the highest percentages of computer ownership in the world, that the figure isn't above 50%. The "computer in every home" ideal isn't a reality yet, even in countries that are considered highly web-aware. I've never heard much about tech in Costa Rica. Can we expect even 0.5 million of those people to be able to use that free WWW access?

    Before posting, I did a little research. Paraphrasing some CIA info: democratic republic, legal system based on Spanish civil law. Economy depends largely on tourism, agriculture, and electronics exports, "very good domestic telephone service". The US State Department considers Costa Rica to be "middle-income" and "developing". Nearest neighbors are Nicaragua and Panama. Sounds like the WWW access could help to stimulate growth in the tech sector.

    That doesn't make the situation sound very bleak, but in a poorer country, offering free WWW access to those who are able to use it (ie computer owners) is akin to offering a free automobile to any person who has walked on the moon, unless there is an abundance of libraries and schools with public terminals. I'd like to hear from a citizen.


  • by bubbles.utonium ( 195235 ) on Saturday June 03, 2000 @06:49PM (#1027506)
    I think this is a pretty smart move for Costa Rica; allowing everyone to have free internet access and e-mail is no doubt going to be a huge undertaking, but it is something that will probably benefit them in the long-run.

    The article gives brief details about providing free internet access to the citizens of Costa Rica who already have computers and setting up terminals in public buildings for those without, and I think this is an excellent move as far as benefitting the country in a long-term view. By allowing people to use the internet free-of-charge, there will no doubt be an increase in the number of people pursuing both hobbies and careers in computer fields simply because of the greater exposure.

    Also, because Costa Rica has a relatively stable status quo compared to neighboring countries, it seems probable that this program will be fully implemented (no pesky political shake-ups or economic crises to mess with the timeline.)

    Right now, most of Costa Rica's GDP comes from industries like coffee, bananas and textiles but I think that with a program like this being implemented the country will lean more toward an economy based on computers.

    Besides, it's a lot prettier than the United State's computer industry hot-spots; they have tropical forests and monkeys and jaguars :)

    GeekFlavor []
  • I use to live in Costa Rica from 1987 to 1989, and most people there had never used or even seen a computer. Amazing what happens in ten years.

    Internet access right now is pretty expensive for the Ticos. My father is vacationing there right now. The only way to get email to me is via a friend, as my step-brother he is staying with has no way to afford the cost of using an ISP.

    This is great news. Although with the Costa Rican government running it, we here in the USA are going to be the ones paying for it. The USA gives Costa Rica over $700 million a year to support their government, education, and medical systems.

    I would like it better if it were implimented via the private sector.

  • by 575 ( 195442 ) on Saturday June 03, 2000 @09:20PM (#1027513) Journal
    There once was President Miguel
    Costa Ricans thought he was just swell
    That is, 'til his plan
    "Connect all in the land!"
    The provider he chose: AOL
  • Perhaps I can give you some light about what this thing really is all about. I live in Costa Rica, and I was born here.

    Our country has always tried to present to the world an image of us as the "ecologically perfect, hi-tech paradise", which we are not. Not yet in the tech field, anyway.

    Then, they launched last week this crazy idea of everybody having access to e-mail. Since a few days back, you can go to any post-office, your local Municipalidad (kind of a City Hall), and some other government offices, and get five minutes in a computer to write e-mail.

    But this could have some rather political significance down here. You see, both telecommunications and the postal service are run by government-controlled institutions (or even worst, they're in their own right monopolies). Internet Access is controlled by RACSA [], the only ISP allowed here; and the postal service is controlled by CORREOS DE COSTA RICA [].

    The two institutions were commissioned by the President to carry out his plan of giving access to e-mail to every citizen. Both operate quite independently, but in the end, they're always governement firms. Since the President announced his e-mail idea, three different publicity efforts have shown up in local papers. RACSA has repeatedly announced that this is an example of their "hi-tec, cutting edge service" (pretty false, IMHO). CORREOS has been stating that this shows how they contribute to ou country's development. And the government has been telling everybody the rumors that finally found their way to Slashdot.

    So, these three institutions are trying to get the most out of this situation. But none of us really know if their expectations will become real. Our government clearly doesn't have the resources it needs to create e-mail centers all around the country. As I write this, perhaps only a few of these centers really exist. And it may take decades before they appear in the farthest towns of our country. The Internet has only recently started to become popular among the people here; and RACSA executives probably want the people to have a nice opinion of them, because there are laws being discussed in our Congress which threaten their existence as a monopoly.

    All of the above are simply my own opinions. Anyway, if you want to have a glimpse of paradise while you dwell on this world, come visit us. Here's what the local institutions and papers say about this:

    CORREOS' page about this e-mail initiative. []
    What RACSA says about this. []
    La Nacion, in Spanish [].
    La Prensa Libre, also in Spanish []

The wages of sin are high but you get your money's worth.