Following an outcry by legislators and the public, Costa Rica’s Telecommunications Superintendency (SUTEL) denied Thursday that it hired an ad agency to sell Internet customers on a new billing method. The method would charge customers based on the amount of transferred data rather than connection speed.
The public bid for the contract — granted to Edilex Asesorías Periodísticas S.A.— asks the firm to design a communications strategy for SUTEL to help it overcome what officials believe are “misinterpretations from customers” about the proposed change in rates.
Last year SUTEL paid Edilex ₡12 million (some $22,000) in a separate contract for public relations advice prior to a public hearing where the change in rates was to be discussed. In total SUTEL would have paid Edilex ₡25.3 million (some $46,800) for both contracts.
The second contract included analysis of news stories published or aired on local media, as well as advice on managing media relations and social media, and on handling any public opinion crises.
Several lawmakers criticized SUTEL’s PR outsourcing at Thursday’s session at the Legislative Assembly.
SUTEL said in a news release that results from the first contract with Edilex would be used to design an informational campaign, so that people attending public hearings about the rate method change can be well informed about the proposal. The agency said the contract did not include a mass media campaign to promote the new rates model and was not aimed at legislative lobbying.
The public hearing at SUTEL was to take place on Oct. 28 last year, however the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, or Sala IV, suspended the event after admitting a complaint filed by Christian Democratic Alliance lawmaker Mario Redondo. Following the admittance of Redondo’s complaint, Sala IV also received two more complaints filed by citizens.
SUTEL’s initiative, now awaiting the Sala IV’s rulings, would have mobile Internet rates billed according to the amount of transferred data, at ₡0.0075 per-kilobyte downloaded. Currently, customers pay a fixed rate for a certain connection speed, regardless of the amount of information they transfer.