Peruvian newspaper offers first free Internet service

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LIMA--El Comercio, Peru's leading newspaper, is about to revolutionize the way Peruvians communicate with the country's first free Internet access service. The service is offered through Q-Net, an Internet Service Provider owned by local construction giant Grana y Montero.

Jose Antonio Miro Quesada, director of El Comercio's information department, says there are three stumbling blocks to Internet use in Peru: the country's relatively low number of phone lines, the high cost of a phone call and Internet Service Provider charges. "We have decided to attack the last problem," he adds.

Telecommunication services in Peru have changed radically since the privatization of the state-owned telephone company in 1994. Spain's Telefonica, which bought the Peruvian phone company for $2 billion, has increased phone lines from 650,000 in 1994 to two million today. Since 1998, when Telefonica's monopoly on service ended, dozens of new companies have entered the Peruvian market.

Despite the expansion in phone lines, Peru still lags behind many of its neighbors in phone lines per capita. Another limit on Net usage is that there are currently 750,000 computers in the country, according to estimates by the government's telecommunications regulatory board, OSIPTEL. There are currently 125,000 individual Internet accounts in Peru, but hundreds of thousands of other people use public Internet "cabins" -- stores set up to offer Internet services -- throughout the country.

While the first company in Peru to offer free service, El Comercio is not alone in Latin America. Free service is being offered in Brazil, and Spain's Terra Network -- which is also the largest Internet Service Provider in Peru, with 62,000 clients -- has announced that it will offer free access in Chile and Mexico.

Copyright March 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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