Advanced Internet: On the Way at Last?

November 19, 2004

MORE than two years after theintended launch date of a project to revolutionizeInternet services in Costa Rica,the “information superhighway” may bebuilt by early next year.The country’s Advanced InternetNetwork was originally set to begin operationsin 2002 (TT, Feb. 9, 2001), but hasbeen pushed back until early 2005.The Costa Rican Electricity Institute(ICE) bought equipment in 2002 and 2003for almost $50 million, and the equipmenthas finally arrived in Costa Rica or willarrive soon, according to the daily LaNación. A representative of one of theequipment suppliers, Costa Rican firmGBM, told La Nación the advanced networkcould be operating as early asJanuary 2005.Officials connected to the project havea variety of explanations for the project’sdelay.TWO former Science and Technologyministers told La Nación special interestsand corruption have caused the two-yearsetback. Because the high-speed Internetnetwork would use DSL lines instead oftraditional phone lines, the new technologywould provide serious competition forthe country’s traditional telephone centers,60% of which are manufactured by Frenchtelecommunications firm Alcatel, the dailyreported.Alcatel officials have been accusedof providing illegal payments to formerICE officials and ex-President MiguelÁngel Rodríguez to facilitate telecommunicationscontract negotiations (TT,Oct. 15).Ex-ministers Guy de Téramond (2000-2002), who originally proposed the network,and Rogelio Pardo (2002-2003)alleged that pressure from those with avested interest in traditional phone centersslowed down the Internet project, accordingto La Nación.OTHER officials blamed the delay onother factors, such as lack of political will,lack of efficiency within ICE, or a faultypublic contract system.Last month, GBM provided ICE withthe equipment needed for the first phase ofthe project’s implementation, although theinstitute is still awaiting 85,000 DSL lines,a contract for which has already beensigned with Samsung.The final component of the contract,optic fibers, has been granted to ECITelecom, although that company has notyet signed a contract with ICE, La Naciónreported.Until now, access to high-speedInternet has been limited to the lucky participantsin a pilot program ICE launchedin 2003 in the western San José suburb ofEscazú, or to those who can afford cablemodem in the areas where it is available.Carlos Walker, a resident of Escazú,recently told The Tico Times he has beenpleased with the service he received sincejoining the pilot project, noting that thehigh-speed service is less expensive thancable modem service.However, he added, at various pointsduring the past few months he has beenwithout service for up to 48 hours.“When they do have a problem, it’s aserious disaster,” he said.THE new network will use ADSL, orAsymmetric Digital Subscriber Lines, abroadband connection that allows the useof conventional phone lines to transmithigh-speed data.“Asymmetric” refers to the fact thatthe speed for downloading data from theInternet is faster than the speed at whichdata can be sent, but this does not affectservice since users typically downloadmuch more data than they send.Other advantages of ADSL includespeed and ease of use. Because the serviceuses separate bandwidths for voice, downloadingdata, and sending data, customerscan use the telephone and Internet simultaneouslywith the same phone line.In addition, ADSL lines are moresecure and reliable than cable modem connections,according to the ICE Web page,www.grupoice.com.ICE’s Web page also states thatwhile coverage will extend nationwide,certain requirements must be met inorder for the service to be installed. Thepotential installation site can be no fartherthan 3.5 kilometers from the localtelephone center.Potential customers will need to providean ADSL modem and a splitter (frequencyseparator). Information aboutvendors of these items is available atany ICE agency or the institute’s Website.A 128/64 kbps connection will cost¢14,000 ($31) to install, with a deposit of$25 and a monthly fee of $25.Higher-speed connections are availableat higher rates, up to $290 per monthfor a 4096/512 kbps connection.

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