“Free internet for all” and why it can't be as free as it sounds

Experts explain why the Government needs to strike up alliances to provide free internet access for all Mexicans
File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
18/01/2018
15:54
Carla Martínez
Mexico City
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The Peña Nieto administration failed in providing telecommunication access to all the Republic by “going at it solo” rather than jointly working with service providers, claim experts.

“Nothing is free. Everything has a price and public investment is needed to achieve whichever connectivity goal is desired but above all, you need an alliance with service providers so they can be part of public policies, which is where I think this administration failed,” said Jorge Bravo, analysts at Mediatelecom Policy and Law.

According to the data of Internet.mx Association, close to 40 million Mexican people don't have Internet access.

Édgar Olvera, Deputy Ministry of Communications and Transport (SCT) told EL UNIVERSAL that there is no budget which can cover free internet for all schools, hospitals, public squares, and roads of the country, possibly as a reply to the campaign promise of Andrés Manuel López Obrador of offering free internet access to all.

However, Abel Hibert, former Commissioner of the now-defunct COFETEL, said it's “a little discouraging” that the Ministry of Communications and Transport hasn't come up with a more “creative” solution to provide mobile and fixed broadband to areas in Mexico which currently don't have these services.

He said Mexico is one of the countries with worst mobile coverage and that providing broadband to the entire country will be a challenge. For Hibert, the aspiring candidate's proposal could be possible if the current coverage could be expanded with the assistance of NGO's so remote communities could have access.

But while offering free Internet access to all is technically possible, the economic aspect should also be considered.

“The question is, who's going to pay for all the expenses? Because you have to invest in equipment, infrastructure,” said Fernando Gutiérrez, technology expert at the Technological Institute of Monterrey.

For Gutiérrez, Mexico's geography is a factor which further complicates the issue as other technologies – such as satellites – will have to be used.

There's also the matter of having an “attractive proposal” for the private sector.

“If there is no business opportunity, the private sector will sell the services to the Government and say 'if you want to give this all for free, then go ahead',” said Gutiérrez.

Gonzalo Rojón, analyst of The Competitive Intelligence Unit, said the programs reviewed in this regard, like Mexico Connected, didn't reach the proposed goal of 250 public hotspots. Internet access has a cost and someone has to pay for it, said the analyst.

“You pay for water, electricity, and other utilities. Saying you can provide free internet access to all is equivalent to saying water will be free for all.”

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