When TLC (or CAFTA) was approved in Costa Rica a couple of years ago, we cheered at the prospect of having new phone and Internet providers. We hoped that competition would bring better service and lower prices.
The reality is that the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, known as ICE, and it’s all-powerful union, has done everything in its power to block the implementation of new service for as long as possible. Their latest game is to delay bringing electric service to the new cell towers, effectively blocking the ability of new providers to create a signal.
It was bad enough when ICE refused to allow the other companies access to the existing ICE cell towers, forcing competitors to litter the country with additional cell towers. Then ICE tried to prevent the construction of additional towers by creating zoning issues (i.e. you can’t put a tower in a residential area), even though ICE towers were already in the same locations.
The latest game just adds insult to injury. While ICE couldn’t prevent the new towers going up, it seems they have just “forgotten” to provide electric service to them, effectively preventing the competitive companies from functioning in many areas of the country.
For example in the Dominical area, there is a new Claro tower about one kilometer north of the existing ICE tower on the Escalaras ridge. The Claro tower has been installed for about a year now, but it sits there like a dead, ugly whale on the beach, powerless. ICE has not even started installing the poles to bring power to the new tower.
Another tower in Alfombra has electric service passing directly in front of it, but the meter box still sits empty, waiting for ICE. Since it normally takes about eight days to get a meter installed, there is no real excuse for the delay in this case.