Once individuals are able to get online, the Mexican internet is predominantly free of censorship, though on several occasions in 2009 and 2010, videos and other content related to political debate were removed at the authorities’ behest. While the blogosphere is not as influential as in other countries in the region, the social-networking site Facebook and the Twitter microblogging service have emerged as important tools for citizen mobilization, including in response to drug-related violence and attacks on journalist. Despite the growing violence against traditional media workers, online journalists and bloggers have yet to be similarly targeted.
Network Information Center (NIC) Mexico, “Historia de NIC Mexico” [History of NIC Mexico], http://www.nic.mx/es/NicMexico.Historia (in Spanish), accessed November 16, 2010.
MEXICO FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net OBSTACLES TO ACCESS Internet penetration in Mexico has increased significantly over the past decade, from approximately 7.1 million users (8 percent of the population) in 2001 to approximately million (27 percent of the population) in 2010.2 Nevertheless, these figures remain relatively low for a country at Mexico’s level of economic development, and especially for a member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). For example, while Mexico has 9.5 internet subscribers for every 100 inhabitants, the OECD average is 20 subscribers for every 100 inhabitants.3 In addition, technological advancement has been uneven across the country, with a large percentage of users concentrated in Mexico City. In total, 84 percent of users over the age of six reside in urban areas, while only percent live in rural parts of the country.4 This digital divide is largely due to a lack of infrastructure, reflected in the fact that only 18.4 percent of households have internet service.5 Together with the high prices described below, this has put the internet beyond the reach of a majority of the population. Nevertheless, cybercafes are generally easy to access in small cities, some small towns, and in areas frequented by tourists. The number of Mexicans accessing the internet primarily at home has increased in recent years, though as of May 2010, 54 percent of users reportedly still accessed the web outside their home.6 Broadband access is relatively limited. No accurate statistics are available on the level of internet use among the indigenous population.
A lack of competition in the telecommunications sector has contributed to high prices and weakened incentives for the dominant companies to expand services to rural areas, leaving many parts of the country without connectivity. Although there are hundreds of independent internet-service providers (ISPs) in Mexico,7 the private company Telfonos de Mxico (Telmex) dominates the market for landlines and DSL broadband internet International Telecommunication Union (ITU), “ICT Statistics 2001—Internet,” http://www.itu.int/ITUD/icteye/Indicators/Indicators.aspx, accessed August 30, 2010; “Mexico Online,” eMarketer, January 2009, http://www.razonypalabra.org.mx/N/n67/varia/oislas/emarketer_2000531.pdf; Internet World Stats, “Internet Usage and Population in Central America,” http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats12.htm, accessed August 25, 2010.
“La SCT invertir 1,500 MDP para Internet” [The SCT Will Invest 1.5 Billion Pesos for the Internet], CNN Expansin, June 23, 2010, http://www.cnnexpansion.com/economia/2010/06/23/sct-invertira-1500-mdp-en-internet (in Spanish); ITU, “ICT Statistics 2009—Internet,” http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ICTEYE/Indicators/Indicators.aspx, accessed August 30, 2010.
Mexican Internet Association (AMIPCI), Estudio AMIPCI 2009 Sobre Hbitos de los Usuarios de Internet [AMIPCI 2009 Report on Internet Users’ Habits] (Mexico City: AMIPCI, May 2010), http://www.amipci.org.mx/estudios/temp/Estudiofinalversion1110-0198933001274287495OB.pdf (in Spanish). Of the 30.million users over the age of six, an estimated 25.6 million live in urban areas.
“Slo el 18% de los hogares en Mxico tienen Internet: INEGI” [Only 18% of Mexican Households Have Internet: INEGI], El Semanario, May 17, 2010, http://www.elsemanario.com.mx/news/news_display.phpstory_id=38482 (in Spanish).
AMIPCI, Estudio AMIPCI 2009 Sobre Hbitos de los Usuarios de Internet.
James Thomasson, William Foster, and Laurence Press, The Diffusion of the Internet in Mexico (Austin: Latin American Network Information Center, University of Texas, 2002), http://lanic.utexas.edu/project/etext/mexico/thomasson/thomasson.pdf.
MEXICO FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net services, providing service to 6.3 million of the latter market’s 8 million subscribers.Nevertheless, the cost of a broadband connection remains prohibitively expensive for many Mexicans, ranging from 389 pesos (US$30) to 999 pesos (US$78) per month.9 In cybercafes, the rate for one hour of access ranges from 10 to 15 pesos (US$0.77 to US$1.15), compared with the minimum wage of 50 to 55 pesos (US$3.80 to US$4.20) an hour depending on location.10 In addition, a 2010 study found that 52 percent of Mexicans surveyed who did not access the internet explained this was because they did not feel it was important, another potential explanation for the country’s relatively low penetration rate.The Mexican government has acknowledged the serious gaps in internet access and shown greater willingness in recent years to address the problem.
In April 2009, Congress introduced a proposed Law for the Development of an Information Society. The draft legislation explicitly recognizes the responsibility of the Mexican state to plan and promote the development of access to information and communication technologies (ICTs).12 In May 2010, the Department of Communications and Transportation also announced an investment of 1.5 billion pesos (US$115.5 million) to extend internet access to neglected regions that private companies have deemed unprofitable.13 The government plans for the first time to use a national network of fiber-optic cables to connect outlying regions, and allow third parties to offer internet services.14 As of mid-2010, steps had also begun to expand broadband services to academic institutions across the country,15 and the department had joined private investors like the Telefnica Foundation to establish “digital clubs” as a means of introducing new media technologies to broader segments of the population.Applications like Facebook, Twitter, the video-sharing site YouTube, and international blog-hosting services are freely available and growing in popularity. In 2005, users of the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) service Skype complained that Telmex had blocked access to the platform, allegedly because it feared losing revenue from fixed-line Isabel Ferguson, “Telmex en ‘Infinitum,’ slo si ofrece TV” [Telmex in Infinitum only if TV is offered], CNN Expansin, January 26, 2010, http://www.cnnexpansion.com/negocios/2010/01/25/telmex-pide-video-a-cambio-de-internet (in Spanish).
Thomas Black, “Mexico to Raise Minimum Wage 4.85 Percent on Average in 2010,” Bloomberg, December 17, 2009, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/newspid=newsarchive&sid=aDxkLtk91LkA.
Octavio Islas and Fernando Gutirrez, “Resultados de los Estudio de Hbitos y Percepciones de los mexicanos sobre internet y Tecnologas Aplicadas 2010” [Results for Study of Mexican Habits and Perception on Internet and Applied Technology, 2010], Razn y Palabra, August-October 2010, http://www.razonypalabra.org.mx/N/N73/Varia73/00Islas_V73.pdf (in Spanish).
Special Committee of Congress for the Promotion of Digital Access to Mexicans, “Ley para el desarrollo de la Sociedad de la Informacin” [Bill to Promote the Development of the Society of Information], 2009, http://jmcane.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/ley-desarrollo-sociedad-de-la-informacion-mexico.pdf (in Spanish).
“Invertir SCT mil 500 mdp en Internet” [SCT Will Invest 1.5 Billion Pesos for the Internet], El Universal, June 23, 2010, http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/notas/689775.html (in Spanish).
Ibid.; Thomasson and others, The Diffusion of the Internet in Mexico.
Thomasson and others, The Diffusion of the Internet in Mexico.
Secretariat of Communications and Transportation, “Impulsa SCT Campaa Nacional de Inclusin Digital” [SCT National Campaign Promotes Digital Inclusion], news release, August 13, 2010, http://www.sct.gob.mx/desplieganoticias/article/comunicado-de-prensa-no-131-impulsa-sct-campana-nacional-de-inclusion-digital/ (in Spanish).
MEXICO FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net calls.17 The company denied that it was deliberately blocking the application.18 Following a public outcry, the blocking ended, and as of 2010, the Skype service was freely available.
Six private companies, led by Telcel, control the mobile-phone market. Mobilephone access is significantly more widespread than internet use, with 83.5 million subscribers as of 2009.19 Some 8 out of 10 households have at least one mobile phone.20 The penetration rate has grown rapidly, from 52.6 percent in 2006 to over 80 percent in 2010.According to the Federal Telecommunications Commission (COFETEL), this is still a low rate compared with other OECD countries.22 Access to the internet via mobile phones has also grown in recent years.23 However, due to the high cost of third-generation (3G) technology handsets, only 10 percent of users can afford the necessary equipment. Mexico’s legal framework for telecommunications is complicated and outdated, as the main legislation on the topic was passed in the 1960s. COFETEL and the Federal Competition Commission (CFC), an antitrust body, are the primary agencies tasked with regulating the telecommunications sector.25 Observers and press freedom advocates have criticized COFETEL for its lack of independence from the Department of Communications and Transportation and the executive branch.
The president directly appoints COFETEL commissioners without the need for Senate approval, and the commission operates with limited transparency. These problems contribute to mistrust of its actions, especially regarding frequency allocations. Nevertheless, there have been no cases of companies being prevented from offering digital-technology services. The CFC has a better reputation, and its head commissioner has demonstrated the will to enforce antitrust legislation, but the Ben Charny, “Mexican Telephone Operator Under VoIP Fire,” CNET News, April 25, 2005, http://news.cnet.com/Mexicotelephone-operator-under-VoIP-fire/2100-7352_3-5681542.html.
Eduardo Arcos, “Se Confirma el Bloqueo a de VoiP por Telmex/Prodigy” [Telmex/Prodigy Blockage of VoIP Is Confirmed], Alt1040, April 21, 2005, http://alt1040.com/2005/04/se-confirma-el-bloqueo-de-voip-en-telmex-prodigy (in Spanish).
ITU, “ICT Statistics 2009—Mobile Cellular Subscriptions,” http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ICTEYE/Indicators/Indicators.aspx, accessed August 31, 2010.
AMIPCI, Estudio AMIPCI 2009 Sobre Hbitos de los Usuarios de Internet, 37.
Federal Telecommunications Commission (COFETEL), “Estadsticas: Telefona Mvil” [Statistics: Mobile Telephony], http://www.cofetel.gob.mx/wb/Cofetel_2008/Cofe_telefonia_movil (in Spanish), accessed August 31, 2010; “Mexico— Mobile Market—Overview, Statistics and Forecasts,” Budde Comm, http://www.budde.com.au/Research/Mexico-MobileMarket-Overview-Statistics-and-Forecasts.html, accessed February 14, 2011.
Claudia Juarez Escalona, “En Mxico Suman 80.8 millones de Mviles” [80.8 Million Mobile Phones in Mexico], El Economista, August 19, 2009, http://eleconomista.com.mx/notas-impreso/internacional/2009/08/19/mexico-suman-808-millonesmoviles (in Spanish).
Google Sites, “Telefona 3G: Mexico 3G,” http://sites.google.com/site/telefonia3g/mexico-3g (in Spanish), accessed August 31, 2010.
“Altos costos Limitan Penetracin de Celulares 3G en Mercado Mexicano” [High Costs Limit Penetration of 3G Phones in Mexican Market], Informador, December 15, 2009, http://www.informador.com.mx/economia/2008/63021/6/altos-costos-limitan-penetracion-de-celulares-3g-en-mercadomexicano.htm (in Spanish).
COFETEL, “Ambito de Accin” [Scope of Action], http://www.cofetel.gob.mx/wb/Cofetel_2008/Cofe_ambito_de_accion (in Spanish), accessed August 31, 2010; Federal Competition Commission, “Qu hacemos” [What Do We Do], http://www.cfc.gob.mx/index.phpoption=com_content&view=article&id=54&Itemid=6&lang=es (in Spanish), accessed August 31, 2010.
MEXICO FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net institution remains weak and has limited power to impose sanctions on large companies like Telmex. There are no restrictions on opening cybercafes, though like other businesses they are required to obtain a license to operate.LIMITS ON CONTENT The Mexican authorities do not employ any technical methods to filter or systematically curb access to online content, and no legislation restricts the internet as a medium for mass communication. Nonetheless, there have been isolated incidents in which online content in the public interest has been removed at the behest of government agencies. For example, in March 2010, the authorities in Jalisco asked YouTube to take down a video produced by a local civil society organization that criticized a highway construction project in the region; the video was subsequently deleted.27 In addition, under Mexican law, the Federal Electoral Institution (IFE) is charged with regulating the use of political advertisements and restricting the circulation of overly negative or false portrayals of candidates. In this context, in April 2009, the IFE ordered the incumbent president’s National Action Party (PAN) to remove from its website an online game that was highly critical of other political parties.28 Two months later, following a complaint lodged by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the IFE asked YouTube to take down a video attacking Fidel Herrera, the governor of Veracruz. YouTube complied and the video was removed.29 In another instance, journalist Alejandro Lelo de Larrea reported in April that a Facebook group he created calling for President Felipe Caldern’s sobriety 24 hours a day was deleted, presumably at the request of the government.30 There have been no reports of proactive content manipulation by either companies or the government.
Although there is extensive self-censorship among journalists working in traditional media, particularly regarding police activity and drug trafficking, the phenomenon is less prevalent among online journalists and bloggers. This is partly because online journalism is not well developed in Mexico, and online writers are less likely to face violent attacks.