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Bolivia: The Cost of Internet Domains

The cost for obtaining a country-specific internet domain has been seen as relatively too high for Bolivians. In comparison to many of its regional neighbors, where Chileans can purchase a “.cl” domain [es] for US$40 for 2 years and where Argentinians can even acquire an “com.ar” domain for free, the price in Bolivia is out of reach for many local residents.

Recently, the Network Information Center of Bolivia (NIC) [es] announced that they dropped the price for the purchase of a “.bo” domain name by 35% The price now stands at approximately $US140 per year. However, there are options to purchase the domain “com.bo” for approximately $US40 per year.

The price reduction was also announced on NIC's newly created Facebook Page, which also opened up the opportunity for users to voice their opinion on the costs of domains. On the discussion board, Esteban Lima wrote:

Me gustaría saber en que se invierte el dinero recaudado. Imagino que como institución pública la información de numero de dominios, recaudaciones e inversión debería ser pública

I would like to know in what the collected money is invested. I imagine that as a public institution the information about the number of domain, money collected, and investment should be public.

Conversation carried over to Twitter and to blogs, where users such as Oscar Humberto (@oky_) wrote about the effects of these prices:

Los precios de #nicbo no son accesibles a la realidad económica de los bolivianos, solo amplían mas la “brecha digital”.

Nic.bo's prices are not accessible for the economic reality of Bolivians, all it does is to widen the “digital divide.”

However, blogger Mario Durán published criticism of the high prices on the wall of NIC's Facebook page, which he said was deleted by NIC. Soon after, Durán published a screenshot of what he wrote prior to the deletion on his blog [es] and noted that he called their offices to ask for further clarification of their policies. In a short interview with a legal representative from the Bolivian Agency for Development of the Internet Society (ADSIB for its initials in Spanish), Durán came away with the following points:

i) las rebajas serian progresivas.
ii) que lo que se paga por los dominios sirve para mantener la burocracia de NIC.bo
iii) que es una institucion estatal que no tiene muchos recursos.
iv) que en otros paises hay economias de escala y mayor numero de usuarios, esto les permite que el costo de los dominios sea incluso de 1 dolar, en Bolivia apenas son 6000 usuarios.
v) que por tres tipos que reclaman no iban a cambiar las cosas.

i) the price decreases will be progressive
ii) the money collected from the sales of domains serve to maintain the NIC.bo bureaucracy
iii) it is a state institution without many resources.
iv) in other countries there are scale economies and a larger number of users, which allows that the cost for domains be even 1 dollar, but in Bolivia there are barely 6000 uers.
v) that for 3 people who complain, things will not change

In his blog post, Durán also noted that the petition to lower the prices has been on the minds of many Bolivian internet users since 2003. In a follow-up post, he suggested that a cyber-campaign be started so that more awareness on the issue can be raised [es] and that bloggers and twitterers should be the ones leading the debate. Many have started to use the hashtag #nicbo for discussion about this topic with hopes that there will be some concrete changes in the near future.

5 comments

  • I was surprised to hear Argentinians can get free domains (is that even without paying for hosting?). Has that been done in other countries too?

    • This is indeed expensive. Macedonia has GDP per capita which is 2 times that of Bolivia ($10,400 vs $4,800, according to CIA World Factbook), and the prices of domains are EUR 10 for the first year and EUR 5 for each subsequent year (about 10-20 times less).

  • Pete

    This is where Bolivia is having problems. The Bolivian government borrows money from Venezuela, the IMF, etc and subsidizes so much of the Bolivian’s life. This is the same issue as the water issue years ago. If Bolivians have to pay how much it actually costs to do something, then they can’t afford it.

    Could the dept need an audit, most likely, since corruption, excess etc seem to be everywhere. But the reality is, DNS names, registration, IP addresses, all of that costs money to maintain.

  • Solana Larsen

    Are the prices still as high today?

  • We should work on covering these kinds of issues more often—Alex Gakuru, who represents Kenya in the non-commercial constituents group at ICANN, talked about high domain costs in Kenya on the Internet governance panel at the summit this week. I believe he said that it costs USD400 to buy a .ke domain. This is really disappointing. My understanding is that ICANN issues country top-level domains free of charge, so it is up to governments to decide how much to charge for their purchase. I think it would be worth advocating for multiple tiers of domain cost—perhaps a very cheap (like US5) rate for non-commercial sites, and then higher rates for commercial ones.

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