San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Consumer rights

Telecom regulator hires ad agency to promote change in mobile Internet rates

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.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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Bobpiazza

Remember 10 years ago when you had to wait in line for days to get a cell phone? Then competition was finally allowed. Almost overnight ICE magically had an unlimited amount of cell phone numbers available. That wasn’t due to improved technology as much as it was a change in business attitude.
Internet providers over the world in free countries are making hundredths, if not billions, of dollars yearly. Now Costa Rica wants to limit the access, which is desperately needed by generations younger than I in Costa Rica, by charging for the amount of usage rather than the connection speed. The cost of living in Costa Rica is high enough, why further burden the Ticos by catering to business providers who are making substantial profits?
The Costa Rica’s Telecommunications Superintendency is even spending thousands of dollars creating a PR campaign (just like the good old USA) convincing this is the right move.
Most providers voluntarily came to Costa Rica to do business. If you research, you will see that one of these providers is owned by one of the richest people in the world. Internet access is an international business. If a local company cannot compete, then get out of the business.
However, in Costa Rican style, similar to approving a low interest loan from China to improve the highway to Limon with the stipulation that all oversight, cost control, and labor be Chinese, the end product will again probably be catering to business who currently make a large profit rather than to the needs of Ticos.
Wouldn’t it be better to insist the providers improve their facilities to meet the load from the millions in profit they are making rather than shifting their costs to the subscriber thereby increasing their profit? If you so insist do you really believe they will give up the Costa Rican marker?

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