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Mobile Phone Co-Ops Are Transforming Mexico's Rural Indigenous Communities

Nina Lakhani - The Guardian
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August 15, 2016

The town high in the mountains of Oaxaca state called Villa Talea de Castro, now has a mobile phone network – but it’s not because of Carlos Slim’s Telcel or any other cellular service provider. (rayuelavalpo)

Until this month, Celia Pérez could only afford a brief weekly call to her husband, Rubén Martínez, who left left their remote rural community in Mexico two years ago to find a job in the United States.

Pérez, 25, was pregnant with their third child when Martínez headed north; he made it to New Jersey and regularly wires home money from his construction job, but the long separation and infrequent calls have been tough on everyone.

Now, a legal triumph by indigenous activists has cracked the monopoly enjoyed by Mexico’s powerful telephone magnates – including the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim – and opened the door to new services which will slash the cost of communication.

Indigenous Communities Telecommunications (TIC) last month won a long battle with the government to become the world’s first not-for-profit group to be granted a mobile phone concession.

The social cooperative has license to install and operate mobile phone networks in 356 marginalized municipalities in five of the country’s poorest states: Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla and Veracruz.

It means couples like Pérez and Martinez will be able to talk and text on their mobiles for a fraction of the cost currently charged by phone booth operators.

Read the rest at The Guardian

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