A small indigenous village in the mountains of Oaxaca, Mexico launched what could be a new paradigm in local telecommunications services: a community-run carrier-grade autonomous cellular network.
With the support of US-based international non-profit Rhizomatica, the Zapoteco village Villa Talea de Castro now offers cell phone service for its residents for the first time, costing subscribers about 1.2 USD a month.
According the the Agence French Press,
The equipment used in Talea, which was provided by California-based Range Networks, includes a 900mhz radio network and computer software that routes calls, registers numbers and handles billing. Calls to the United States are channeled via a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) provider.
The village received a two-year-permit from the Federal Communications Commission to have the right to test the equipment.
Villa Talea de Castro is one of around 50,000 villages in Mexico that lack cell phone service. Mexican telcom giants often do not have financial incentive to provide services to small, sparsely populated regions. Currently working in Mexico and Nigeria, Rhizomatica aims “to increase access to mobile telecommunications to the over 2 billion people without affordable coverage and the 700 million with none at all.”
According to Rising Voices, Rhizomatica aims to use the technology to teach local Zapoteco in Villa Talea de Castro citizen journalism skills.