Ecuador and the Internet – Truth, Lies & Statistics

So you are all ready to make the big move down to Ecuador.  You’ve come to visit a few times, found the perfect home, packed your belongings and your mind starts to stir.  Thoughts of reaching your new found paradise and emailing all your friends, sending photos and videos…wait!  Rewind!  Email…photos…videos. We kind of take those things for granted, don’t we?  Just sit a spell and type away.  Almost like breathing for many of us.  How easy will it be to “breathe” the Internet in Ecuador should jump to the forefront of your thoughts, because the true answer of Ecuador and the internet is rather diverse and complex. First, let us start with some basic statistics.  The last in depth Internet study referencing  Ecuador was conducted in 2010.  The data showed that approximately 4.2 million Ecuadorians had ready access to the Internet.  Using population data from the period, the figure breaks down to about 33% of the population.  Not a staggering number, either positively or negatively, on a comparable world basis.  The data also showed almost a doubling of fixed line broadband Internet users, from the previous decade.  The latter represents reasonably aggressive InterNet use growth. Now…the lies.  Notice how Internet usage is seldom highlighted in the realm of those seeking to promote Ecuador as the “ideal relocation spot”?  When it receives mention at all, it is generally a vague reference to the Internet “being available throughout much of Ecuador”.  Technically…accurate. Practically…just a wee bit disingenuous.  Calls to mind how one is actually defining “Internet usage”?.  Back to the opening paragraph of this article, just how much emailing, photo sending and video broadcasting are you planning to engage in…and…in what proportions for each? The truth is that while some degree of Internet access is possible pretty much throughout most of Ecuador, only a few select locales have what many modern households would deem “genuine high-speed Internet access”.  Even then, depending on your locale, the cost of said service can vary dramatically.  Let us break down exactly what Internet service looks like in Ecuador. For genuine high speed Internet access, you are likely to focus your relocation attention on either Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca, Salinas or Manta.  Outside of those areas, Internet speeds and true high speed Internet access can begin to suffer, sometimes dramatically.  However, even across those 5 cited cities, differences emerge.  Quito and Guayaquil, the governmental capitol and the economic capitol, respectively, not only have true high-speed Internet access, but also a variety of service providers.  More competition, means better rates, service and routine upgrades. Cuenca has traditional access to high speed Internet, but limited competition in terms of providers.  As such, services outages and slow downs are more frequent, quality of service less motivated, and routine upgrades more scarce than in Quito or Guayaquil.  Also, prices, on a value basis, are higher than in Quito or Guayaquil. In Manta, the access to high-speed Internet is similar to Cuenca, just qualitatively not quite as advanced.  Top speeds are slower.  Performance not as crisp and reliable. Prices a bit higher. Still, a reasonably good level of service, relying, again, on a limited number of providers. Finally, when you hit Salinas, you enter the “outer limits of the acceptable Internet zone”.  Much vaunted Salinas, oft even heavily promoted by myself, is not a ready Internet mecca.  True high speed Internet, of the “shop and go” variety, does not exist in Salinas.  In fact, most of what exists in Salinas is wireless InterNet access providers, ranging from the “pretty good quality” variety, to the “doggedly painful” variety.  If not for one option, Salinas would not even make the grade, for inclusion on the list of top InterNet markets in Ecuador.  That option is fibre optic cable Internet.  It is a major option, but a costly one.  The Ecuadorian major phone service provider, CNT, provides high speed Internet access in Salinas, via a true 1:1 customizable connection, running via ultra high-speed fibre optic cables.  The catch?  Money…money, money…money! When I say the service in Salinas is customizable, I mean right down to CNT running the fibre optic cable straight from their corporate facilities to your desired Internet locale.  It is a sight to seem them running the cable throughout town and you know it is being done, just for you…personally.  The first time I had it installed, I remember getting calls from well-intended neighbors, saying, “They just went by my house, should be over by you in 15 minutes.”  It was an experience.  The connection, itself, costs $200 and does not seem to depend on distance from the central corporate host location.  However, service plans start at $150/month and go up from there.  It is wicked fast…but heavy on the wallet. Just a reality to consider, when selecting a locale in Ecuador. As for the rest of the country, most Internet service is either the old dial up variety or an improved wireless option.  Several service providers exist for the wireless service, which vary by region, but most dial up service is provided only by CNT.  WIth either service, consistent video conferencing is difficult to impossible.  The sending of large photo files or video footage challenging and a lengthy process.  Certain time-specific career tasks probably rendered useless.  For example, I could not imagine being a stocks or commodities day-trader and relying on either the dial-up service or wireless Internet systems in Ecuador.  Timing is everything…and it is only a matter of time before you get burned. The point is that Internet service becomes, for some, a realistic consideration as to where to relocate within Ecuador.  It is often the sole reason for why people move from locale A to locale B.  Sitting in your backyard, toes in sand, on that isolated beach cove can seem romantic…for a while.  Try that for 8 months, without being able to contact nary a soul, because your InterNet connection spends more time down, than up…and that romanticism can fade rather quickly.  I want everyone to enjoy their relocation and have it inspire within them a new lifetime of adventure.  However, by the same token, reality has a nasty habit of creeping in, at the most inopportune of times.  Make sure that your fantastic dreams well match your realistic lifestyle, when relocating to Ecuador.  No place is this disparity often greater than when considering true Internet access options and costs.