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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

    Maybe this official letter from the ICE will be helpfull for anybody interested in Satellite Internet and Phone. Actually they don’t have the equipment needed, but it will be available soon (they said).
    Dr. Rafael Gamboa

    El Servicio VSAT-ICE surge para satisfacer la necesidad de Telefonía y acceso a Internet de clientes ubicados en zonas donde no se cuenta con soluciones mediante el Sistema Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (SNT).

    A nivel general, el funcionamiento técnico de este servicio consiste en una red tipo estrella, con comunicación asimétrica, en donde el punto central es la Estación Terrena de Tarbaca, que por medio del satélite interconecta a la Red de Internet Avanzada (RAI) del ICE a una velocidad de 128 Kbps.

    El Servicio VSAT-ICE es ágil, innovador, de calidad, confiable, flexible y de fácil implementación.
    ¿Cómo afiliarse al Servicio VSAT-ICE?
    El cliente debe llenar la “Solicitud de Servicio VSAT-ICE para Telefonía y Acceso a Internet” que puede ser pedida vía telefónica al número: 2346913 o bien, a través del fax 2832121 o del correo electrónico: telegest@ice.go.cr
    La misma debe ser firmada por el suscriptor del servicio telefónico y los documentos que se deben aportar son:
    Persona jurídica:
     La solicitud debe ser suscrita por el representante legal de la empresa.
     Personería jurídica con no más de 30 días de antigüedad.
     Copia de la cédula de identidad del representante legal.
     Copia de la cédula jurídica de la empresa.

    Persona física:
     Copia de la cédula de identidad.

    Las tarifas del servicio VSAT-ICE son:
    Tarifa Mensual conexión a Internet y Telefonía expresada en US$ Tarifa Mensual sólo conexión a Internet US$
    Velocidad 256/128 Kbps 512/256 Kbps 256/128 Kbps 512/256 Kbps
    Estación propiedad del ICE 378.00 581.00 358.00 540.00
    Estación propiedad del cliente 231.00 435.00 211.00 394.00

    Cargo por acceso a Internet 9.92 19.83 9.92 19.83

    * Estas tarifas incluyen el uso de la estación, la comunicación satelital y el puerto de acceso a Internet.
    Si desea mayor información comuníquese al número telefónico: 2346913, o bien a la dirección de correo electrónico: telegest@ice.go.cr

  3. Doug Ward on October 4, 2007 5:49 am

    Thats exactly why the GOVT has control of these services.
    It TRIES to keep scumbags from The Empyre from operating here.
    ICE will get their act together…eventually..LOL
    Kick back and enjoy nature.

  4. Tim on October 4, 2007 10:06 am

    Apparently the folks at some of these satellite companies are not happy with the assessment in this Post. So I am now getting these glowing “endorsements” of Satellite TV in Costa Rica.


    Not being a complete idiot, I verify these because I have NEVER met a happy SAT customer let alone three.

    Yup! Every one of these endorsements has come from one of these satellite companies, using phony email addresses, etc. Obviously I have not added their comments here.

    Any company or companies that stoop to this kind of tactic clearly have issues and clearly serve as proof that you should use extreme caution when dealing with them.

  5. Rob on November 25, 2007 10:20 pm

    I will be setting up a internet cafe and a WiFi in the Puntarenas area and our connection will be business satellite service at 2mg/512mg. We are starting phase I (internet cafe) in about a month and phase II (beaming wifi to surrounding houses and developments) in about 2 to 3 months. I will post again when I have more info for you.


  6. Chas on January 12, 2008 2:15 pm

    I just want to say thanks for the heads up! I am moving to San Jose soon, and need a high speed connection. I would have had no idea that the satellite services where illegal, which matters to me because I will be working with the government.

    Do we think CAFTA will have a major effect on the telecom market? I haven’t yet studied its provisions.

  7. Mario on March 8, 2008 7:44 am

    We are in an area of CR where unlucky for us, not even our cell phone works on our location. If we need to call anyone we have to drive 5 kms before we can get a phone signal.
    So what do you in case of an emergency? Or if you have a break in very common in our area.
    I did got in touch with Ice and according to them there are planning to set up phone lines on our location in about 6 month (every one knows if in CR 6 month, means 2 years or more ) So we got in touch with one of those companies offering satellite service.
    After $ 5.000 US and $ 175 US monthly we have INTERNET/ phone. The connection it’s not the best but at least we are able to call and receive call via Vonage (even so according to this company Vonage was not good so where trying to sell us other phone service)
    The internet service is very slow, but helps at least to use our e- mail with family and friends!
    We are experience problem making our payment as seem like they do not want credit card but apart from that we got communication!
    I know is illegal using a satellite in CR, but do we have any choice? My common sense tells me NO.! Protecting our life it’s the right of every human being. $ 175 monthly it’s not economical, but at soon Ice or any one legal offer a service I will be more than happy to switch and safe some money too!

  8. Bruno on May 5, 2008 7:53 pm

    I am thinking of moving to CR sometime in 2009, I have 2 kids and my work is done using the internet. I need broadband and was wondering what is the maximum speed we can get around Tamarindo and what technology is it? Dominical and Jaco had ISDN but I could not find anything on Tamarindo. I am hoping they have DSL. Is DSL available in any west coast area? Anyone knows? Cheers.

  9. Lezlie on October 6, 2008 1:39 am

    Bruno…I just moved to Playa Zancudo from the San Jose area. My internet is DSL, but slower than it was in San Jose.

    I am only getting 250 kbps download and 110 kbps upload, currently. A guy is supposed to come this week and possibly replace my modem, check things out. He might can improve it a bit… but it won’t be much for now.

    The availability for upgrading to a faster package is supposed to increase significantly in February. Apparently, they have fiber optics installed all down the road, but the job isn’t finished yet.

    Some people around here has ISDN and it’s extremely problematic.

    I also use the internet for work. I am going to see if such a slow speed can get me by until the upgrade occurs early next year.

    Every freaking house I looked for at every beach on the west side was dial up only. The solution every renter gave was “go to an internet cafe” … i just couldn’t do that.

    The DSL in San Jose was faster than what I am using now, but it still had its problems. But, even though San Jose had faster internet, I much prefer where I am living now. This beach rules.

  10. KO on October 10, 2008 6:06 am

    Anyone: I have been wanting to spend a year or so in CR with my wife and three kids. We have been there a few times and love it. I can work remotely from the U.S., but I need excellent internet and cell phone. Did I hear correctly that satellite dishes are illegal? DSL is very slow, but I guess we are comparatively spoiled in California with broadband. Any suggestions? Info?

  11. riding4now on October 19, 2008 2:07 pm

    I’m planning to move to either Sámara or Dominical in the next month. I need internet for my work, too, as a graphic designer. I was in Sámara and was able to hook into local wifi from businesses — how hard is it to get one’s own wifi set up? That’s different from the satellite internet you’re discussing, right? Off-topic of interwebs, anyone living there know of housing options? thanks!

  12. Tim on October 27, 2008 8:17 am

    WIFI is a different topic and as you are using it, is not available.

    High speed Internet was available in Samara, but may now not be (meaning new service) as there are few connections. You need to check with ICE. Same with Dominical. If both have no service, then suggest you live in the central valley where you can obtail the service you need.

    Satellite service is not legal here unless purchased from RACSA, a truly awful service.

  13. Stan on February 8, 2009 6:26 pm

    Are you sure that Cafta didn’t break the monopoly of selling satelite interney. My unit only uses 2 watts. What is the minimum no of watts before ICE takes effect? Even a Wi Fi router puts out 28 milliwatts?

  14. Tim on February 9, 2009 8:38 am

    There was never a monopoly on selling satellite systems. Anybody could do it. What is illegal is to USE one, regardless of power, and that has not changed. Controlling of radio transmissions of ANY type is a sovereign right of the government, and nothing in CAFCA can or will change change that.

  15. Maria Arguez on June 2, 2014 6:17 pm

    Last entry here was 2009.

    It’s been 5 years and I wonder if there have been any improvements on facilitating high speed internet. We do live in a cyber world and as the day we’re retiring comes upon us, it’s important to know the advances in cellular signals and high speed connections.

  16. Tim on June 2, 2014 6:58 pm

    No changes of any import. Still crummy but tolerable Internet speeds and very expensive as opposed to first world countries like the USA. Mobil service is lousy, but for lite use it will serve.

  17. Tim on June 23, 2014 11:11 am

    Last post was March 2014. There are no material changes.

  18. Victor on August 16, 2017 1:46 pm

    Looking for an update on the Satellite options for internet. It’s been another 3 years since the last post. I’m hoping there have been improvements since then. I’ll be moving down in December.

  19. Tim on October 12, 2017 9:03 am

    Satellite TV is available here but NO Internet

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