A social co-operative in Mexico has obtained a license to install and operate mobile phone and broadband networks across the country’s poorest areas.
The co-op, called Indigenous Communitarian Telecommunications (TIC), aims to provide services for Mexico’s indigenous population at affordable prices. Rural communities, particularly indigenous ones, tend not to have access to mobile services, due to high infrastructure costs and low profit margins. They rely on landlines or sometimes only on telephone boxes, which charge high prices for phone calls.
An initial experimental concession was awarded in May 2014, allowing community-owned telephone services to be installed in 16 communities in Oaxaca. By managing the network for their own benefit, locals were able to save costs.
The tariffs are below 1% of what a telephone box would charge. For 40 pesos a month, members get unlimited local calls, and can call other parts of Mexico or abroad for 98% less than what other providers would charge them.
In 2015, Mexico ranked a 95th out of 167 countries for phone and internet coverage. These communities, along with others across the country, decided to form a co-operative and ask the Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT) for permanent license.
The co-op also works alongside Rhizomatica, an NGO that provides legal and technical assistance. Rhizomatica’s mission is to increase access to mobile telecommunications to the over two billion people without affordable coverage and the 700m without any coverage at all. It is currently helping communities in Brazil, Nicaragua and Somalia explore similar alternatives.
In July the IFT granted TIC the first permanent license. The decision will enable the co-op to install a mobile phone network in the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, Guerrero and Puebla. It will cover 356 marginalised communities across the five states.
Referring to the success, Erick Huerta, adviser for TIC and member of the Advising Council of IFT, wrote: “This historic win is only a small step in fulfilling a dream that started many years ago and which is developing throughout indigenous communities across the country day by day. [It is] developing with their own principles, generating means to respond to their needs with their resources, through collaboration and mutual help, replacing the logic of dependency with autonomy”.
In this article
- Erick Huerta
- Federal Institute of Telecommunications
- Indigenous Communitarian Telecommunications
- mobile phone network
- mobile phones
- Mobile telecommunications
- social co-operative
- telephone box
- North America
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