Broadband Access in Brazil, a Frustrating Reality

The emerging Brazilian economy has struggled to keep the pace of developed countries when it comes to broadband Internet penetration. As Brazil will be hosting the World Cup soccer tournament in 2014, followed by the Rio Olympics in 2016, having broadband Internet in its territory has become of the country’s top communication priorities. However, the improvements on the area look slim.

Since the establishment of the National Broadband Plan in 2012, the government has not been successful with the monitoring of distribution of broadband access and its services by providers. Despite of the fact that broadband connection has surpassed 25 million, as stated in a CISCO article, Brazil which is the top  economy and has largest population in Latin America, still lag behind Chile, the number one in broadband penetration in the region.

Moreover, the growing middle class has been dissatisfied with the expensive services for high speed internet added with poor and unreliable connection. Internet service providers in Brazil have been accused by consumers for offering lower speed then promised, in addition to bad connection.  This issue led to the Brazilian government changing in its regulation promising to penalize the Internet Service Providers that do not comply with the items offered by its services. The new regulation states that “ISPs must also provide an average speed currently 60% percent of what that advertised. This will be increased by 70% by November 2013, and 80% by November 2014,” according to The Rio Times online paper.

The issue in Brazil brings to light the common obstacles faced by developing nations when it comes to broadband penetration. In the case of Brazil, liberation of markets for foreign ISP companies led to an oligopoly where few companies manipulate prices bringing down quality and options for consumers. This fact is clearly exposed by Civil Society’s main concerns on the issue as seen in the WGIG’s paper on “Competition Policy” that states, “If liberalization only leads to the establishment of a few big private players, some actors highlight that the resulting market will be oligopolistic, and prices, which are no longer subject to governmental oversight, may be determined through a cartel.” The WGIG addresses this issue advising that  an anti-trust policy is required in order to establish a fair liberalization of the market.

In addition to the unfair role played by ISP companies, we cannot set aside the digital divide that persists in the country. According to the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index, Brazil places 54thon the country’s ability to “make use of ICT for growth and well being.” Moreover, the article adds that Brazil and other booming economies from the developing world have their high economic boost jeopardizing their commitment with ICT, resulting in an even more dramatic digital divide.  Therefore, in order for these countries to close the digital divide gap, it is necessary that governments establish initiatives creating regulations to address this issue, mainly when it comes to broadband competition. Another important point for discussion, is how economic inequality interferes on broadband internet access in developing countries. Among the findings in Gulati’s and Weiss’s “Different Paths to Broadband Access” paper, are the fact that concentration of wealth plays a major role on who gets nor not broadband internet, “the level of wealth was the most important factor explaining the level of broadband access in the model of the developing world,” as a result, when bigger is economic inequality, bigger will be digital divide.

The Brazilian government has tried to create a way to give access to less expensive broadband internet to low income families; however, the service is poor and it does not have the technological support and back from other ISP companies. Analyzing the root of the problem, better regulations and better overall living conditions for the whole population are the only ways to close the digital divide by giving to the citizens the power to consume what is best and to advocate for the best.

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