Thursday, April 17, 2008

ICE - Costa Rica Telephone and Electric Service

In Costa Rica, the government has a monopoly for providing telephone and electric service. It has pros and cons and there is much debate on this changing in the future.

On the pro end, it is very affordable for everyone to have the basic services. My monthly bills are about $6 a month each for telephone and electric in my home. In the USA, my minimum can be 10 times this amount. This is a great thing to have inexpensive access for all. Universal access can also be seen in health care and higher education which is clearly not the case in the USA

The other side of government monopoly is it might take a month or even years to get phone service in some areas. The ongoing experience at an ICE office are long lines and not always the best customer service. High speed internet is rolling out very slowly in much of Costa Rica. Also, international calls are much more expensive from Costa Rica than from the USA. Thank God for Skype as a free or very cheap alternative for global communication.

On March 20 of this year, there was an overhaul of the phone system. The standard seven-digit phone number was changed to eight. A 2 is now added at the beginning of seven-digit landlines and an 8 before seven-digit cell phone numbers. The area code for all of Costa Rica is still 506 and the country code is 011. This has caused much confusion and frustration over the past month. I wondered if this was a plot by printing companies since business cards, stationary and signs all needed the phone numbers corrected.

For me the inexpensive basic services are a great thing and allow me to live in Costa Rica very affordably. In addition, there is a lesson somewhere in the need for patience and not being able to get instant anything here. Living a simple basic life is the way to go in Costa Rica.