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Satellite Internet Service in Costa Rica

August 25th, 2007

Internet service is available all over Costa Rica. That is not to say it will be good Internet service, but at least you can connect. If you live outside of the central valley, the chances of getting a high speed connection drop considerably, though in fairness, many of the popular tourist destinations now have some high speed capability.

However, if you live in any of the many hundreds of other cities outside the central valley or the tourist spots, your only option is a telephone modem, or perhaps a (quite poorly working) connection using a GSM cell phone. Either way, you are getting not only a very slow connection speed but often unreliable service as well.

Over the past few years, there have been companies promoting satellite Internet service in Costa Rica. On the surface, this seems like a great idea for those needing a decent connection speed but who prefer to live outside the main population areas.

As I have written in The REAL Costa Rica, these installation are totally illegal in Costa Rica.

If this topic is of interest to you, read on…

These satellite setups must not only receive Internet signals (download) the must also transmit information back to the satellite (upload) to work properly. That is where lies the problem.

Costa Rica is a sovereign nation, and as with every country I know of, you must be licensed to send out radio signals. In Costa Rica, the only companies who can legally do this are ICE and RACSA. ICE does not offer any service though RACSA does offer a truly horrible satellite setup that receives by dish, but actually transmits (uploads) by TELEPHONE connection.

Any other satellite setup that sends a signal (transmits) is illegal.

So how do these companies get away with this? Probably the same reason you can run a red light here. Little or no enforcement. So if you decide to spend the thousands of dollars to buy one of these systems, you should be aware that, although you may not get caught, you are absolutely breaking the law.

So do they work?

The answer is not clear. I have met only 3-4 people who paid the big bucks, and I have not met one yet who was even remotely happy. One of these is a real estate agency (and a client of mine) with offices around Dominical. After more than a year of trying to get the system working, they wrote it off. Really had no other option.

The others were just people who moved here and needed a high speed connection. All expressed unhappiness with their purchase. Now I am sure the must be somebody here who does not feel ripped off, so if you are a happy customer, by all means add your comment at the bottom.

Here though is a letter I received yesterday from a gentleman who is not at all happy, and I publish it here because he expresses almost verbatim what others have told me.

Many who live in areas without land based phones or accessibility to Internet connections other than cyber cafes might consider contacting one of the Internet satellite installers advertised in the English speaking papers.

If you do, it is a case of buyer beware. There seems to be a major problem with unethical and fraudulent schemes directed towards foreign and English speaking people. Because it is a small country that has limited means of combating these schemes the perpetrators feel they can operate with impunity.

I contacted one of these companies that the ad and website indicated was a local company operating in Costa Rica. I called the local number and was referred to a number in the US. I was sent a contract which I signed and my credit card was charged $2599 for the equipment and $500 for the installation and $99 a month for the service.

The first indication something was wrong was when the modem I contracted for was switched to an older model. The installation was to include grounding but I was told I would have to contract that out.

The service lasted 31 days when the modem stopped working. I contacted technical support and after several days were told I would have to buy a new modem for $1900 and an undisclosed amount for a service call. This would mean it would cost me $5600 for a total of 31 days service. The cost of the outmoded modem was 4 or 5`time’s industry standards so it became clear I had been had.

Through investigation I learned the modem manufacturer warranted the modem. The so-called local company was one of 4 or 5 companies that is interconnected and was a front for one of these companies. There is misrepresentation in all their websites. The pattern of withholding service and demanding additional money is well documented as March 3, 2006 they notified around 3000 of their subscribers that unless they came up with additional money their service would be cut off in 5 days.

In checking with the National Register it was determined none of these companies are licensed to do business in Costa Rica. Also contacted was Miguel Montero of Racsa, the agency that controls all satellite internet installations, not only are they not licensed but such installations are illegal.

It is a sad state of affairs when these companies are allowed to operate. t was one of the reasons we came to Costa Rica. To avoid the pattern of getting money anyway you can. Bill Strong.

A couple of comments. There are NOT 3,000 installations in Costa Rica. I doubt there are more than 50. The writer is speaking of all customers of this company world wide.

I also have not verified the “interconnecting companies” thing.

However, it is clear that if you do decide to break the law and use one of these systems, this is a clear case of “do your due diligence” also known as caveat emptor.

As mentioned above, I encourage anyone who has and is happily using a satellite system to comment below. I promise not to report you to the satellite police!

19 Responses to “Satellite Internet Service in Costa Rica”

  1. Saratica on August 26, 2007 6:09 pm

    One of the main reasons I live in the Central Valley: I’m spoiled and need my internet, plus the other services readily available here NOT available in other parts of the country.

  2. Rafael Gamboa on September 12, 2007 3:19 pm