Internet Growth in Brazil

News of the expansion of Internet access in Brazil lately has been quite positive. Just the other day word came out that the number of people in Brazil with access to the Internet at home or at work reached 70.9 million in August, a 16% increase in a twelve-month period. At the same time, my experiences in Brazil this past summer proved that though the Internet may be reaching more people, the quality and accessibility leaves something to be desired.

First, wifi was everywhere promised but rarely available. At both of Uberlândia’s malls I saw signs up declaring a “wifi zone,” but none of the available networks were open. I checked with a few of the restaurants in the food court, and the employees seemed very confused. They all ended up telling me to check with the mall’s administration. It felt typically Brazilian to be promised something with a measure of pomp, only to discover it’s an insubstantial promise.

“WiFi Zone” sign at the Uberândia Shopping food court. There were no open connections.

Second, although “LAN houses” seem to be readily available, the quality of access varies widely depending on the location. At one location near my mother-in-law’s house the Window’s software seemed pretty buggy. I’m fairly certain it was pirated, and in any case it made me nervous to log into my online bank account there. Another purported LAN house in the same neighborhood offers access for R$2 (less that a US dollar), but neither time I dropped by was I able to log on. The first time the sole person working told me the Internet was down. The second time I stopped in she acted strange about me wanting to use the Internet. She actually asked, “What do you plan to use it for?” She also wanted to know if I would take long. Very strange.

A “LAN house” with no easy way to go online.

Third and finally, the Internet is powerfully slow in Brazil. I tried repeatedly over different wifi connections to upload to videos from my iPhone, only to have them time out. within 5 minutes of arriving home in the United States I had these videos live on YouTube. Wifi speeds depend entirely on their fixed, broadband connection. If that connection is slow, the wifi will be a trickle.

All in all, I definitely saw progress in Brazil from my last time there in 2003, and I think the future is definitely bright on a technological front for the nation. It all depends on investment in infrastructure and private initiative. I hope to be a part of it all in not too long.

See also (in Portuguese):

Internet cresce 16% em um ano no Brasil (O Dia)

Acesso à internet em casa e no trabalho chega a 70,9 mi de pessoas, diz estudo (Folha de S.Paulo)