The State of Broadband 2016 report, released by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean shows that 43.4% of all households in the region were connected to the Internet in 2015, nearly doubling the figure from 2010.
Another 54.4% of the inhabitants of Latin America and the Caribbean used the Internet in 2015, which is 20 percentage points more than in 2010, showing the significant progress made in the region in the last five years in terms of access to the service and its affordability.
The percentage of Internet users as a proportion of the total population in Latin America and the Caribbean grew 10.6% annually from 2000 to 2015, which reduced the gap with countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD): this difference shrank to 25.2 percentage points in 2015 from 37.2 percentage points in 2010.
With regard to access, the document indicates that the number of households connected to the Internet in Latin America and the Caribbean grew at an annual average of 14.1% in the last five years, reaching 43.4% of all households in 2015, which nearly doubles the figure from 2010.
There is a great difference in access levels between the countries of the region: of the 24 countries analyzed in 2015, three had household Internet penetration that was below 15%; fifteen were between 15% and 45%; another three were between 45% and 56%; and only Chile, Costa Rica and Uruguay reached 60%.
According to the report, access to broadband connections increased sharply in the period under study, particularly in the mobile mode, which surged from 7% to 58% of the population between 2010 and 2015.
In 2010, the percentage of people with access to fixed broadband and mobile broadband was practically the same. Between that year and 2015, the number of mobile subscribers grew 802.5% while that of fixed connections rose 68.9%. The country with the greatest penetration of mobile broadband vis-à-vis the overall population is Costa Rica, at 95.5%.
In terms of affordability, while in 2010 the cost of contracting a fixed broadband service of 1Mbps represented about 18% of average monthly income, by early 2016 that figure had fallen to 2%. Affordability also increased significantly for users of prepaid data packages. In several countries, these packages lasting 30 days cost less than 2% of income, the report highlights.
Despite this progress, problems persist in terms of quality (connection speeds) and the equitableness of access to the Internet (differences according to geographic location and the population’s socioeconomic situation), according to the document.
Firstly, no country in the region has at least 5% of its connections with speeds of more than 15Mbps, while in advanced countries this percentage is 50%. In addition, there is a difference of 41 percentage points in Internet penetration between urban and rural areas in the country that has the greatest gap in the region.
In terms of income, the expansion of access has been concentrated “in the richest quintiles, widening the gap with the poorest quintiles,” according to the document, which dedicates one chapter to the experience of Costa Rica with mobile broadband and another to the digital agendas of Latin American and Caribbean countries.