Development in Rio de Janiero, and throughout Brazil, continues apace for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Sometimes it seems like President Rousseff is announcing a fabulous new national advance with every address, and this past month was no exception.
As part of the preparation for the big events, Rousseff announced that the Brazilian national telecommunications company, Telebras, will be implementing a National Broadband Plan, which authorizes an investment of R$200 million (US$118 million) in the creation of low-cost, high-speed Internet access for Rio and the 11 other cities participating in the World Cup.
The plan will also build infrastructure for 4-G cell phones, to be completed by 2014. At the same time, President Rousseff signed another landmark telecommunications bill that will allow competition from both foreign companies and small local providers to help increase access to high-speed Internet, international television stations, and other services, such as Netflix, throughout Brazil.
“This is a legacy which will remain to the Brazilian population after the World Cup and Olympic Games,” said Rousseff. Services will be available for only R$35 (US$21) per month, about half the global average. While all of this is great news for travelers who need the latest technology while on the road, the National Broadband Plan doesn’t stop there.
Currently, Brazil’s Socialist Party is pushing the senate to approve a law making Internet access a human right, as it is in Finland and other progressive countries. While well intentioned, this would be difficult to implement in Brazil, however—the country may be the world’s seventh largest economy, recently surpassing both France and the UK, but still suffers one of the biggest gaps between rich and poor anywhere. The logistics of providing wifi in regions like the indigenous Amazon are at present insurmountable.
Regardless, the new National Broadband Plan hopes to extend high-speed Internet to more than 5500 municipalities by 2014. “We want to reach at least 40 million households with access to broadband Internet,” said Rouseff last week, “which is very important to our country’s development. Internet is present at everything: economy, education, shopping, personal relations and public services.”
In the meantime, travelers who have been disappointed by the lack of Brazilian broadband service can go ahead and rejoice: It will be available in Rio and São Paolo starting next month, October 2011. Look for service in other major cities by the end of the year.
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