The fourteen countries in South America contain about 406 million people. All together, they account for about 8% of the world’s Internet users. These countries also contain five of the ten slowest Internet speeds in the world. If you’re planning on visiting South America, do not plan to get international Internet service, Wi-Fi in every café, or even Internet in hotels. Often, you must visit an Internet café just to log on to check email and basic sites. Cell service is an entirely different ball game, so don’t worry about being able to reach your family from inside South America. This list reviews each South American country by their Internet speeds and accessibility.
Brazil, being the highest populated and most developed of the South American countries, has the best Internet. The average connection speed is about 2.9 Mbit/s, so it is still slightly slower than North American and European speeds. Brazil has the most access overall, as well.
Argentina is the next most populated country, and has only slightly improved Internet speeds of 3.1 Mbit/s. They have a large infrastructure that allows for Internet similar to Brazil.
While their service is a little less reliable than other countries, Chile is one of the first countries in the world to agree to “Net Neutrality,” essentially preventing any government interference with Internet access.
Internet here is some of the fastest in the country, at 5.5 Mbit/s. However, it’s not the most accessible service, and often you’ll have to pay for Internet in a café.
Internet is both hard to find and fairly expensive here. Speeds are an average of 2.3Mbit/s where you can find it.
This country has fairly fast and available Internet service, and it is a large country. A lot of people have access to the Internet, but there is a lot of concern around censorship. While the government has not officially claimed censorship, there is much evidence that journalists and people who speak against the government tend to have their Internet blocked, reported, or shut down.
Internet is not the best here, and only about a third of the country has any access to Internet. There is also concern with censorship here, as the President often files lawsuits against those who speak against him online.
Again, only about a third of this country has access to Internet, and the speeds are incredibly slow. In some areas, speeds can read 3.6Mbit/s, but this is not the norm and the grid is unreliable. Go see Macchu Picchu, leave the laptop at home.
Like Peru, speeds are about 3.6Mbit/s here. However, only large cities have reliable Internet access.
This country is subject to the “Human Rights Watch” because of their restrictions on Internet access. While the speeds are nice for those who can afford it, Venezuela is not a country you want to visit if you like your rights respected.
Not even half of this country has used the Internet before, and speeds are dismal.
This country has some of the lowest speeds (1.3Mbit/s) and also have complete government control over its Internet content. Stay away!
At a whopping 1.1Mbit/s, Bolivia is the lowest ranked Internet speed in the world. There are no direct restrictions on the Internet, but those who get a page to load should be careful what they share.
Basically, there is no Internet on the Islands. Don’t go here if you’re looking for a working vacation.
While South America has come a long way just in the past two years regarding their Internet connectivity, there is a huge gap between the highest users of the Internet, and the lowest Internet users. South America has experience a 1,456% increase in their Internet usage since 2000, with a large majority of that occurring after 2010. The highest users are in Brazil and account for 50% of the total Internet use. Countries like Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela compose the other 50%, but that is not the entire list of South American countries.
Citizens of the Falkand Islands, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Suriname account for about 2% of the total Internet user population, as of 2013. This is often cited as just an aspect of their individual cultures, but could also be a result of their lowered populations. This also, in large part, due to their geography. Cities that are not inland, and face the water, rely on undersea cables to deliver their Internet “juice,” and these cables are unreliable and faulty at best.
Aside from geography, there is another major guiding force in slow Internet in South America: government corruption. That sounds weird to many Westerners, especially in 2015. However, many South American governments are known for their restrictive “legislation,” and intentional budget cuts that isolate the citizens and prevent certain sectors of the economy from growing. This problem is especially evident in Argentina, Venezuela, and Colombia, where the Internet is outrageously priced, and telecommunications companies are not allowed to invest in improved cables or technology that will increase Internet speed. This is designed to keep the governments in control, and to subdue the masses. The situation is being closely monitored by governments and humanitarian organizations around the world, and is slowly improving.
While South American countries are working hard to improve their Internet connection (where they can), the concern is with the cost that many of these countries cannot bear. Already, Internet access in countries like Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay are too expensive for the majority of citizens to afford. Many worldwide Internet providers are seeking solutions to help bring faster Internet to the South, as well as Asian and African regions of the world. This will be done by international funding for improved fiber optic cables under the ocean floors, satellite access, and improved grids on each continent. This endeavor is no small feat of course, and will take time and a huge amount of cooperation by the largest telecommunications companies in the world. However, if it is pulled off properly, Internet will be accessible to everyone (despite government attempts to hinder it) at an affordable price.
Of course, there is always the chance that people will choose to not use the Internet, and there may be places in the world that become total Internet “dark zones” intentionally. As long as the people in that region choose to not have the Internet, that is perfectly fine. However, many people argue that the Internet is a fundamental right and its easy to see why, as we move quickly into the middle of the 21st century.
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It’s hard to imagine gong back to the days of dialup, or (gasp) no Internet at all. However, not every place in the world has the best infrastructure, pricing, or availability of Internet, which means that many places in the world do not have access to important information and resources, or even (gasp again) Facebook. As the years go on, Internet access is improving in most countries, but is still subpar when compared to the fastest Internet countries, including South Korea and Hong Kong. According to Akamai, a cloud data service that can track Internet loading speeds, these are the five slowest Internet countries:
By December of 2014, only about 5% of Bolivian homes had Internet, which is a staggeringly low number compared to what most people in the West are used to. The lack of infrastructure is mostly due to the fact that the country cannot afford fiber optic cables or grids to increase accessibility. However, Bolivia wasn’t even “on the board” last year, so obviously they’re doing something right.
Paraguay has a much higher Internet usage rate in homes, about 25%. Their mobile Internet usage greatly exceeds that, with nearly everyone in major locations using it. However, the infrastructure is greatly lacking, and Paraguay must rely on oceanic fiber optic cables to deliver Internet, making it much harder to access affordably.
Over 16 million people access the Internet in Venezuela, but only two percent of citizens “earn” speeds over 2 Mbit/s. Venezuela’s government, known for corruption, has made it difficult for telecom companies to expand, and made basic access for people unaffordable.
Although India has one of the slowest connection rates, it has the third highest number of users, topping out at 402 million people at the end of 2015. That is slated to be more users than the United States! Their connection is incredibly affordable, making it more accessible, but they are using traditional cables rather than fiber optics. The cables slow down the service, making it rather difficult to download things effectively.
Vietnam has one of the slowest connections of any Asian countries, mostly because of their geographical location. Because they are surrounded by water, they rely on the AAG (Asia-America Gateway), SMW3 (Southeast Asia – Middle East – Western Europe 3), TVH (Thailand-Vietnam-Hong Kong), and IA (Intra Asia) cables for service, but service is most affected by the AAG. Frequent glitches and ruptures along the undersea line cause disruptions, making it difficult to rely on the Internet.
Why This Matters
Internet is something that has been declared a universal right by most world powers and by humanitarian groups. Access to Internet changes lives, and educates people about the world in ways that were previously untapped. When people are restricted in their Internet use based on geography, that isolates them even further. When people are restricted in their Internet use based on government ruling, that’s cause for major concern.
Paraguay and Bolivia, both landlocked countries in South America, have notoriously slow Internet- some of the slowest speeds in the world, in fact. Because most other countries in South America touch the water in some form, they have access to the underwater cables that carry Internet. Because of the lack of infrastructure and poor grids towards the inland areas of the continent, many people do not use the Internet because it is so unreliable. This will hopefully change in the not-so-distant future however, as Comcast is stepping in to make Internet much more accessible through all of Latin America.
Because Paraguay and Bolivia are landlocked, they generally have to get their Internet from other providers who essentially “feed” it into the two countries using other technology and methods that cost more than they are really worth. For this reason, the cost of Internet in Paraguay and Bolivia is outrageous, making it nearly impossible to provide in every community like the United States and Europe have. With Comcast’s help, a better Internet Exchange Point will now enter into many more Latin American countries. An IXP essentially helps “feed” the Internet into the grid much more effectively, and Comcast is helping to fund this new venture. In combination with the Internet Society, a program designed to make sure Internet is accessible across the globe, Comcast will also train individuals in Paraguay and Bolivia in improved approaches to Internet grid creation, troubleshooting, and maintenance.
Not only does this initiative help fund the improved grids and components required to extract the undersea Internet cable “power” and transfer it into individual countries, it also helps educate the countries involved. Instead of relying on an outside source or Internet Service Provider, Internet Society and Comcast are essentially providing Paraguay and Bolivia based companies with the tools they need to improve the Internet in their own areas. This is unique because it encourages innovation and education, rather than extending dependency and preventing a lack of resources. They’ve been given the tools, and now they can make the Internet as successful as they want it to be.
Many people are wondering why Comcast and The Internet Society have spent so much of their funding on this specific program. The reality is that South America (and most of Latin America in general) have some of the slowest Internet speeds in the world. There are countries in Africa that are at war that have better Internet than some countries in South America. It is also easier through these locations, as they already have access to the underwater cables, and therefore have a good supply that can be drawn on. All that needs to happen is for these countries to have better systems in place so they can harness the power they already have access to. There will surely be other endeavors by Comcast and The Internet Society in the years to come. Soon, nobody in the world will be without Internet.
For many people (generally those who have access to it), the Internet is a luxury, not a right. However there are millions of people across the world who do not have access to the Internet, whether because they are too remote or because of government intervention. For either reason, the Internet is not something that should only be given to those with access to it. Many groups, including humanitarian aid organizations, believe that the Internet should be an “inalienable right” among the people of Earth. Why is it so important for everyone to have the Internet?
Surely, as you’re reading this on your computer or mobile device using your chosen web browser, you’re not thinking that you’re entitled or rich. It costs you nothing (aside from your monthly Internet costs, and the cost of the device you’re using), and it’s everywhere. Right? Well, consider how you get the Internet. In most developed countries, like the United States, Canada, Europe, etc., there is an elaborate grid that provides Internet “juice” to all different areas, some even through underwater cables that span miles and miles. However, only the countries that can afford to increase the Internet grid on land are the ones who have affordable, accessible Internet. What if you lived in a country that is poor, and could not afford that technology to expand the grid? You wouldn’t have Internet. What if you lived in a country where the government refused to fund the technology that would make the Internet grid in your area possible? You wouldn’t have Internet. These are key components to the reality of Internet accessibility. When you’re able to simply find Wi-Fi, or have Internet accessibility in your home, you really are one of the lucky ones.
One of the biggest pushes in humanitarian aid efforts right now, even in countries that are warzones, is to build infrastructure needed to carry and deliver Internet. Why in the world would countries that don’t even have food or clean water want Internet? Because the Internet is a tool to get the help they need. You know how you Google everything because you’re not sure how to do it? Imagine putting those tools into the hands of people who desperately need to know things like how to clean water, how to cook food, where they are located on a map, what sorts of things are going on around the world. Imagine living under a government that controls what you can read, watch, listen to, and talk about – as seen in North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela. What if, for the first time, people had access to information that was not pushed through a filter? If programs, companies, and humanitarian groups could find the funding, or find the opportunities, to expand the infrastructure and bring Internet to every country, the possibilities are endless. People could be more connected than ever, using a tool as massive and powerful as the Internet to help one another and improve situations across the globe.
There has been a lot of discussion about net neutrality lately. What exactly is net neutrality, though? It is the process by which all- yes all– Internet Service Providers (ISPs) allow unfiltered and unblocked access to any content online or over the Internet (mobile, computer, or other) no matter what the source is or what information it contains. This is incredibly important because many people in the West and most developed nations do not realize that there is some sort of filter blocking their online access on a daily basis. For example, Google and YouTube automatically filter out videos of murder, rape, bomb creation, etc. While these aren’t necessarily bad filters to place, other countries and services do not stop at things like this.
It is the hope of many governments and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that net neutrality becomes widespread across every country and continent. In fact, many governments are using interference and censorship of Internet as a way to determine if a country is fully democratic or not. Think about it: if you voted a president into a country like Venezuela, but the Internet is restricted and you’re not allowed to speak ill of the president, are you living in a truly democratic society? These are the issues that arise when we consider net neutrality. Governments like the United States are hoping to provide Internet freely to all peoples in order to overthrow governments that are actually dictatorships, and to spread freedom of speech and basic access to information.
There are a ton of problems to instituting a worldwide net neutrality law, of course. The largest hurdle is the governments who restrict Internet usage. Many governments deny direct influence over the filters that ISPs place on their citizens, claiming it is a private company’s choice rather than government force leading to censorship. The only way around that is to provide private ISPs that are funded by other international companies or countries, but there is no guarantee that those new ISPs will not fall victim to the same force the others have. The second hurdle is cost; it is expensive to increase Internet access across the globe. Even countries that do not have a government censor in effect often cannot afford to increase the technology that allows people to have Internet. This means that other international groups like the UN or even UNICEF would have to raise enough funds to pay for the infrastructure, technology, and implementation. Obviously, that is much easier said than done.
Without free access to the Internet, there will continue to be a bridge between those who have and those who do not. Many people consider the Internet a luxury, but in reality it could help save lives, educate the masses, and take out dictatorships and government monopolies. Give the people a tool like the Internet, and so many new doors will open. Net neutrality is necessary, not a luxury.
It’s hard to believe that there are people around the world that have never used a computer, let alone never used the Internet. The reality, however, is that only 3.2 billion people out of the 7.125 billion population have used (or are using) the Internet. That’s not even half of the world! There are a number of reasons why there is such a huge inequality in Internet access.
Even though there are many, many undersea Internet cables that provide the “juice” a country needs to access the Internet, the reality is that building the technology to use that “juice” is too expensive. Many poor countries have trouble just building roads and housing for their citizens; how could they afford an Internet grid? The sad part here is that if they just had access to the Internet, they could possibly help themselves out of poverty through all of the new tools they could acquire.
Countries like Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and North Korea are known for their lack of Internet freedom. The governments of these countries knowingly restrict the Internet for their citizens, making it hard for them to act against the government, access information about the outside world, and generally control every aspect of their lives. If democracy is not present in every country, there will never be equality in Internet access.
Many countries can afford grids in specific areas, but only in the more developed, urban ones. This means that the wealthier people who can afford to live in urban or suburban areas get Internet access, whereas the other people who live in rural areas, or in poverty, have much less access. If people cannot afford to access the Internet, they’re not going to be on an equal playing field. Consider children who have access to the Internet for homework, and kids who do not. Which child is going to learn more?
Many ISPs (Internet Service Providers) only provide Internet in a language specific to the region. However, many people across the world are illiterate, about 13-15% of the entire adult population in fact. What if a person cannot read all that the Internet has to offer? There is a basic difference between someone who has been provided an education and someone who has not.
Many people around the world have physical or mental disabilities that prevent them from equal use and access to the Internet. Consider this: you are blind, deaf, an amputee, have a learning disability, or a physical impediment that makes it hard to use a computer. How will you properly use the Internet? Many Western countries have solutions to these problems, but what about the rest of the world?
As you can see, Internet availability depends on a ton of factors. This list is definitely not exhaustive either, and there may be other components that affect your ability to access the Internet dependent on where you are in the world or what you’re dealing with on a personal level. All of these obstacles need to be addressed and solved in order to have equality in Internet access all around the globe.
For many people in developed countries, it’s hard to comprehend limited, or filtered, Internet access. The idea that you couldn’t open up Facebook, or Google, or a major website because it is “restricted” is something that the majority of the world will hopefully never experience. However, for some countries, this is a harsh reality. Many governments and countries around the world have intentionally slow Internet, frequent Internet outages, and limited access to only what that specific entity wants their citizens to see. For many non-governmental organizations and humanitarian aid efforts, this is a huge problem. These citizens are ruled by corrupt leaders, and their basic rights are being restricted in numerous other ways. This list documents the countries that have the worst Internet access.
No surprise here; North Korea only allows 4% of its citizens to even access the Internet. What is available is entirely propaganda in support of the regime.
Internet censorship has lightened up greatly in Burma, but is still very prominent. Most email is under surveillance, and cyber cafes (how most people use a computer) are monitored every five minutes with screen shots. Pornography, anything to do with drinking or drugs, or ways to block censorship are all banned searches.
If you’re a government official in Cuba, congratulations! You can do pretty much whatever you want on the Internet. If you’re a citizen, you can only access the Internet via an approved “hub,” and your browser history, keyword searches, and general surveillance. The slow Internet connection is intentional as well, making it difficult to access information on virtually any site.
Although one of the United State’s closest “allies” in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has a very tightly controlled Internet. All sites that are not in support of Muslim law or belief systems are blocked, and information access sites like Wikipedia and Google are largely unavailable. Citizens are encouraged to report immoral sites that encourage non-Muslim behaviors (like porn, drinking, Christian conversion, etc.).
Iran has one of the highest numbers of Internet subscribers, with nearly 46 million citizens. However, it has been found that nearly 30% of any given websites are blocked, including major ones like Facebook, YouTube, and Google. Users are required to have an Iranian email service, and are not allowed to encrypt messages or content. The government also limits download speeds, making it easier to monitor and block something before it is available for public consumption.
Despite worldwide access to the Internet, it is crystal clear that the Internet is not just a “given right” in many places in the world. It is important to understand this because humanitarian issues do not just come up in places of war and hunger. There are small human rights infractions across the globe that fly under the radar. This is probably due to the fact that these people don’t even have access to a method of communication like the Internet, and they may not even know that they’re lacking access to a great tool. It is important to remove these censorships and restrictions in order to promote equality across the globe.
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