The ownership of a TDMA telephone line has been elevated to a human right.
Just as the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad began Tuesday what it called a gradual elimination of the obsolete cell telephone system, the regulators stepped in and said that telephone users cannot be allowed to lose service.
The telephone company has been warning for at least a year that the TDMA service was going to be abandoned. This is the system that was begun in 1994.
Then the company began enticing users with free cell phones for the newer GSM system. Finally it said last week that the TDMA plug would be pulled Tuesday.
At the last minute the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones stepped in, and said that the cell phone users have a right not to be cut off.
And the agency said that TDMA service had deteriorated to the point where it ordered a 67 percent rebate for recent billings.
The agency said that the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad was required to inform users about what to do to guarantee the transfer to a new system without damaging their rights.
At last count there were about 8,000 customers still using the service, the company said. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad said it had contacted each customer to tell them the service would be terminated Tuesday.
The Superintendencia ordered the basic monthly charge for TDMA users be cut from 2,900 colons ($5.80) to just 674 colons, about $1.35. Similar reductions were ordered for per minute charges.
In addition to the cost of keeping three separate cell phone systems in operation, the company wanted to dump the TDMA lines to assist in a rearrangement of the cellular spectrum.