Costa RicaCosta Rica

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Costa Rica's telecommunications industry is rapidly evolving, as more and more people are getting online for both work and play. If your computer is your lifeline, rest assured there are various options for attaining Internet in most developed areas.

Internet addicts like me can always find a way to stay connected in this beautiful nation. The numerous cyber cafes exist in part because many locals do not own personal computers. In fact, despite the technology being newer to Costa Rica than to the U.S., Internet access is generally more reliable in my Liberia apartment than in suburban Atlanta.

While ADSL and cable Internet can be difficult to secure in some of the country's remote communities, good connections are the norm in urban regions. Most places either already have access or are scheduled to get online in the near future.

Costa Rica's fixed broadband market is developing at an astonishing rate. In the first half of 2009 alone, the industry grew 27.3%. This included 52,000 new connections. It is estimated that by the end of 2010 the country will have reached 325,000 connections, with 7% of the population using broadband. Last year, a friend in the small Central Valley town of Atenas was connected via ISDN -- basically twice the speed of dial-up. Less than a year later, she now enjoys the same high speed ADSL available in the country's major cities.

Urban centers including Liberia and the San Jose metropolitan area tend to have more reliable connections than isolated locales like the Osa Peninsula.

playa-negra-cahuitaIn my quest to surf the web in Liberia, I discovered two choices for getting home Internet. Customers can connect via ICE, the government-run electric company that offers high speed ADSL and dial-up options. Prices for 512/256 kbps speeds start at $19 per month, in addition to the price of the telephone service required to get it ($55 for the line, plus monthly charges). There is also a one-time installation fee of $40.

A second method for getting online is through a private company called Cabletica. Internet prices start at $16.95 for 512/128 kbps speeds, and must be added to an existing cable television service that starts at $30 per month. Users must also purchase a cable modem for $50. In Liberia, Cabletica's customer service department has a better reputation than ICE's, partially because it is a private enterprise in direct competition with other cable providers.

santa teresa internet cafeThere are also two ways to use cellular signals to connect to the Internet. In an effort to stay on top of new technology, ICE has introduced a brand new USB data card, the Huawei E166, for laptops. This portable modem works anywhere a cell phone signal is present. While slower than fixed Internet (700 kbps), it can be used countrywide -- even on a moving bus or car. Unfortunately, the speed is completely dependent upon the number of nearby users. If many other users are simultaneously downloading or uploading, web browsing can be slow, if not impossible. I've heard mixed reviews about this modem, and am not sure that the $30 monthly fee and $80 data card are worth the cost, but my research continues.

Lastly, mobile users can purchase similar Internet plans for their 3G phones that start at about $6 per month. Strong cell phone reception is ubiquitous throughout most urban regions, making this a viable option for many.

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