Government launches plan for subsidized internet for 140,000 homes

The telecommunications agency is about to give a portable computer and subsidized internet access to 14,000 low-income families. This is the first step in a project that will result in providing computers and internet hookups for 140,000 families next year.

That was the announcement Monday by the Superintendencia de Telecomunicaciones, which is administering a fund to connect Costa Rican homes. The money comes from the various internet providers and mobile telephone companies.

The initial group of families are those who have been identified as low-income by the Instituto Mixto de Ayuda Social. The heads of these families will get a computer and obtain a subsidy of from 40 to 80 percent to hook up the home with fixed internet service by the existing providers, including the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, Tigo, Coopeguanacaste, Cable Tica, Telecable, Coopesantos or Coopelesca, said the agency.

The family will have to pay from 3,363 to 10,088 colons for the monthly service, said the Superintendencia.  Cable Tica and Radiográfica Costarricense S.A. charge about 20,000 colons for a home hookup.

The government said it has $128 million to spend to hook up low-income families to the internet. Families that are not initially included in the first round can petition to be so, said the agency.

The initial 14,000 families were selected from other existing anti-poverty programs, said the Superintendencia.

For expats, the program means a large number of new internet users that will strain an already overcrowded system. The families also will be vulnerable to theft because they will have a portable computer in the home.

The government program is based on the theory that by using the internet low-income families can work their way out of poverty by online education and other opportunities. There does not seem to be any plan to monitor the use to which the subsidized computer systems are put.

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