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CAFTA and WiMax in Costa Rica

Three articles stand out this week: The first describes events that are a glimpse of what we will see once the CAFTA discussions begin, the second denounces the newspapers for failing to report accurately on these same events, and the third stumbles upon a discovery of virtual private network (VPN) operations in Costa Rica even when CAFTA hasn´t passed and they are currently illegal… although a ministry is allegedly purchasing VPN services. You can follow the links to the articles to read them in their original Spanish.

The CAFTA battle has begun” by Eduardo Mora

Last December brought on the first skirmish, when the Executive power took every single bill out of congress’ agenda so that the Commission for International Affairs could go on to have a permanent session to yield a positive outcome for the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

The first round was yesterday, and CAFTA´s adversaries suffered their first defeat when three projects from the complementary agenda for the treaty were passed through a chaotic vote which happened while the Citizen Action Party (PAC) desperately attempted to break quorum. The motion to pass the three projects without due proceeding was the result of an early morning meeting by the party chiefs of the Liberation, Unity, and Libertarian parties and deputy [Guyón] Massey, a meeting which took place while the President of the Congress told deputy Salom (from PAC) that there was no party chief meeting that day for undisclosed reasons.

In addition, as soon as the motion was brought out, the Congressional President, who throughout the year has openly coordinated the session debates in Congress, changed the way he was acting and decided to strictly abide to the rules, not allowing members to speak and demanding for the vote to take place, while the PAC tried to get all their deputies out of session before the vote [to avoid quorum], which didn´t happen.

Then came the complaint speeches from one side and the other. Deputy Merino warned the deputies to remember that the streets will define if CAFTA is wanted or not, which was interpreted by the Libertarians as an incitation of violence. Deputy Sànchez from the Unity party, with earsplitting screams, demanded that the PAC´s expense account be lowered while he reminded us that, with much pride, he had voted for the highly unconstitutional Costa Rican Electricity Combo. Deputy Antillón reminded the deputies that the motion to pass the projects of the complimentary agenda did not imply an immediate approval but that it just took them out of the permanent commissions and onto special commissions for quicker transactions. The deputies for PAC and Accessibility Without Exclusion (PASE) pointed out the “new” way to apply the regulations by way of the Congressional presidency while those of Liberation, Unity and the Libertarian Movement demanded that people are expected to vote and not break quorum in Congress.

All this skirmish happened because of three projects from the complementary agenda. Just imagine how the proceedings will take place once the serious discussion of the CAFTA agreement starts.

In the meantime, those interested in following the debate, remember that the Legislative Assembly meets from Monday to Thursday at 3 pm and we can listen to the complete debates on Radio Nacional (101.5 FM)

Costa Rica´s press: lies” by Mirando en Marcelo

Reading the papers during lunch about what happened yesterday in the Assembly, I believe that we have to congratulate one another and declare January 19th as a national holiday: Things have stopped being black and white in Costa Rica and have turned completely monochromatic. “My opinion is the only one that exists and that´s it” is the most succinct way to summarize the so called “news”.

If I had been enclosed in a bubble during the past 20 years and I hadn´t listened live [to the Legislative Assembly] on the radio thanks to Radio Nacional´s transmission and had opened the papers today for the first time, I would, at this moment, be convinced that the PAC is a troop of mad nincompoops who, along with the union leaders, have plotted a conspiracy to dismantle the Costa Rican government at all costs and bring down three emblems of Costa Rican institutions like National Liberation, Libertarian Movement, and Social Christian Unity.

There is no mention to the multiple violations of the regulations which were passed.

There is nothing regarding the so-called “cancelled” meeting of the party chiefs.

It is only casually mentioned that four party chiefs met with the Prime Minister … sorry, “Minister for Presidency,” to negotiate what was going to happen.

It is also mentioned by happenchance that, literally, from one moment to another the legislative modus operandi was changed.

In other words, history is rewritten. Can you remember when La Nacion created a “special edition” for the province of Limon, to report two different and contradictory versions of the same event? I think we are at the brink of having that happen again.

More on CAFTA this past week can be found at “In or out of CAFTA” at Mirando en Marcelo and “Expect the Unavoidable” at El Cuarto Desordenado.

What? Did the market open already?” by menos6gmt (“6 behind GMT)

Reading about WiMax technology in the Wikipedia, I found that the American company QTel has already installed in our country, apparently more than a year a go, a data network of national coverage that they´ll be updating with WiMax technology next trimester. WiMax technology allows wireless broadband connections and, in the near future, will allow cellular telephones, mobile internet, etc, and it is expected to reduce the digital gap throughout the world, particularly in rural areas. Already Costa Rican Radiographic (RACSA), owned by the government) and the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity (ICE) are working on pilot projects using this technology.

The main issue here is that QTel not only has the network installed but they are offering their services discretely, in the realm of Virtual Private Networks (VPN). VPNs are one of the three aspects in which open market was discussed in CAFTA, the other two being internet and cellphone service. Nevertheless, this business is apparently giving the service even when there are no open markets yet according to the company's documentation. Even more serious is the allegation that one of their clients is a Minister of Government, although who he is exactly is unspecified. Besides, this business manifests that because they are the only private company with a national network, they´ll have a one to two year advantage with regard to other competitors once the telecommunications market opens, which implies as well one or two years less for ICE to prepare in the face of competition.

It is also interesting that the Honduran ex-presidents Ricardo Maduro and Rafael Callejas are consultants to this company.

Many questions arise… How can a business install a national network without anyone noticing? How long have they been operating? In which frequencies are the QTel networks working? Do they have permits? When did the auction for the frequencies regarding WiMax (usually between 2.5Ghz and 5Ghz) take place? Which ministry is purchasing pirated services from a private company? Could it be ICE itself?

3 comments

  • Very interesting post. When I went to check out QTel, however, the only reference I found was to Qatar Telecom, with the following board members.Director Ali Bin Abdullah Al Emadi
    Director Ali Bin Futais Al Merri
    Director Ali Bin Saad Al Kawari
    Director Hamad Bin Abdullah Al Shamsi
    Director Hamad Bin Thamer Al Thani
    Director Harab Bin Masoud Al Darmaki
    Director Mohamed Bin Juma al Qubaisi
    Vice Chairman Mohamed Bin Suhaim Al Thani
    Director Mohammad Bin Issa Al Mohanadi
    Chairman Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammad Bin Saud Al Thani

    I’ll do some more exploring and see what connections the US has with QTel. I doubt the company would be in CR, violating pre-CAFTRA regs without US knowledge and tacit approval.

  • […] From Global Voices comes a discussion on DR-CAFTA events in Costa Rica. Of particular relevance to this project is the part discussing moves by companies to provide broadband services once the markets are fully open. One private company is rolling out WiMax to meet the need. [Global Voices]. […]

  • Well, of course ICE and RACSA are going completely backwards with the whole WiMAX thing – the pilots thay are doing with Qtel are in the San Jose area, where you can get decent DSL or ISDN broadband already…. Where they SHOULD be testing first is in the rural areas – especially the tourist areas where it would really benefit a myriad of tico businesses serving visitors.

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