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Costa Rica: New Undersea Cable Brings Cheaper, Faster Internet Access

Mike Godfrey,, New York

12 December 2000

In line with president Miguel Angel Rodríguez's objective of closing Costa Rica's "digital divide" – the difference between citizens who have access to the Internet and computers and those who do not - the country is to see low Internet access rates introduced by Radiografica Costarricense (RACSA) this week.

RACSA is bringing in a new scheme, Internet para el Hog@r (Internet for the Home), with reduced access costs. It coincides with the arrival and connection this week of the Maya Cable, an undersea fiber-optic telecommunications cable connecting Central America and Mexico to the US. The new cable means Costa Rica will be able to at last move away from its dependence on slow and costly satellite communications and its often erratic Internet service.

RACSA General Manager Marco Cruz commented at a press conference last week: 'Maya Cable is a dream come true for all of us who work in telecommunications. International satellite communications have always accounted for about one-third of the client’s Internet rate. The Maya is very good news for all Costa Ricans.'

RACSA technician Alberto Bermúdez explained that the Maya Cable will be phased in gradually, taking over a larger share of the current satellite data transmissions. RACSA's broadband Internet infrastructure currently has the capacity to receive 55 megabits per second (Mbps) of information and to send 22 Mbps. By June of next year, when Maya Cable is fully operational, Costa Rica's sending and receiving capacity will almost triple to 155 Mbps. Mr Bermúdez said that the Maya Cable's first 45 Mbps went on line this week. Another 45 Mbps will be operating by February or March, and the cable will be fully functioning by June.

However, the lower rates for access are currently only available to domestic customers whose telephone lines are classified as "residential." Mr Cruz said commercial rates will also drop, but probably not until late next year, when a second international strand of fibre optics, the "Arcos Cable",joins its Maya counterpart at its entry point at the Caribbean port city of Limón. Mr Cruz said RACSA is also negotiating its participation in a third fibre optic cable, dubbed "Global Crossing".

Mr Cruz concluded that the new fibre optics, plus RACSA’s $10 million investment in new network components from Cisco Systems and Sun Microsystems, will make Costa Rica more attractive to multinational companies. President Miguel Angel Rodriguez recently claimed that the country has lost around $200m worth of investment this year because of the lack of a competitive and state-of-the-art telecommunications infrastructure.


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