The proposal follows a request by the country's three carriers, Movistar, Claro and state-owned KÖlbi, and it includes charging for transferred data instead of charging for connection speed, which is how plans currently operate.
SUTEL already had approved data transfer rates for prepaid plans back in
Under the new proposal carriers will offer a
For example, using a smartphone to "Like" a friend on Facebook requires about 13 Kb, which costs about
SUTEL spokesman Eduardo CastellÓn said the agency would take up to one month after the hearing to respond to any objections, meaning they expect new rates to begin in August.
"We believe data transfer rates will provide carriers with more financial resources to improve service quality," he said.
The government apparently agrees with SUTEL. After a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Presidency Minister
Kopper said a change in the rate model is necessary: "It's time for Costa Ricans to have a tariff method that allow us to pay exactly for what we are actually using."
She also said that "5 percent of mobile Internet customers -- some 150,000 people -- are overusing the service, and high consumption is affecting the quality of service for all users. Charging by data transfer would be a major benefit."
According to SUTEL's latest report in October, there are 3 million mobile Internet users in
The technology minister also dismissed claims that the proposed change violates free access to the Internet.
"Everyone will pay according to their consumption, and the government will make sure no changes are made on current contracts until they are expired," Kopper said.
Matias SeÑoran, a spokesman with the private carrier Movistar, reiterated that the change would benefit users with better quality service.
"A new rate method is necessary, as current unlimited download plans are unsustainable," he said.
SeÑoran said the company would honor current contracts based on connection speed, and would comply with SUTEL's ruling.
The state-owned carrier KÖlbi, run by the
A tough sell
Many customers seem reluctant to accept the new rate system, expressing their disapproval in chats and on social media networks.
Some are organizing a large turnout at the public hearing. Others use Facebook to dispute SUTEL's arguments, and blame President
"We are interested in your daily experiences using Internet in your lives. We want to know how much you use it and for what purposes, if you have noticed a decrease in speed, and other details that you would like to share. We also would like to receive a copy of your contract to study," one post from the office said.
Customers willing to share their thoughts with the Ombudsman's Office can do so by sending an email to email@example.com. The message should be sent no later than
"First, we believe it is illegal to nullify the current SUTEL rate model and then unilaterally change it. This implies a change in provisions of an existing contract and is a violation of
The association also believes SUTEL does not have the capacity to monitor carriers' compliance with data transfers, and therefore, "there is no guarantee that the change in the rate model will mean an improvement in the quality of service."
"Carriers since 2012 have been asking that the approved change in rates for prepaid plans also be applied to postpaid ones," he said.
SUTEL began studying the issue following the first request by carriers, but that study was suspended when ARESEP's board of directors ordered the agency to dismiss the request, based on the government's inability to monitor compliance with data transfer rates, Campos said.
"We know many other sectors oppose this.
Anyone interested in adding to the debate or opposing the new rate model should attend the public hearing scheduled for
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