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Santiago Nuyoó, where 1,700 residents are now enjoying mobile phone service. Santiago Nuyoó, where 1,700 residents are now enjoying mobile phone service.

16 mountain communities in Oaxaca band together to get phone service

Sending a message to another community used to mean a three-hour walk

An association made up of 16 mountain communities in Oaxaca has achieved what no private company was willing or able to do: it has taken low-cost mobile telephone service to the state’s Juárez, Mixe-Alto and Mixteca Sierra regions.

Called Indigenous Community Telecommunications (TIC), the association was supported in its endeavor by Rhizomatica, an international organization whose mission is to support communities to build and maintain self-governed and owned communication infrastructure.

Sixty percent of the revenue generated by the new mobile network will be reinvested in the communities that built it.

One of the main beneficiaries is Santiago Nuyoó, a municipality in Oaxaca’s Mixteca region, where 1,700 of the 4,000 users of the new network live.

“Our ancestors didn’t know telephone communication. Their communication was based on the ringing of bells, whistles and shouting. The people of our town never dreamt of having this technological advance,” Timoteo García, a local chronicler, told the newspaper Milenio.

Although just 100 kilometers from Oaxaca city as the crow flies, the journey to Santiago Nuyoó from the state capital takes six hours due to a roundabout highway route.

The difficult access to the municipality and other parts of Oaxaca’s sierra regions is one of the reasons why no company has shown interest in providing mobile coverage there, Milenio said.

Anastasio Vázquez, a Santiago Nuyoó councilor, said the community-built network is “very important” for the municipality, explaining that it has helped authorities overcome difficult communication problems.

“For example, when we need to communicate quickly with the seven communities [of Santiago Nuyoó] we have the radio but sometimes it’s difficult because of the mountains. We solve that with the telephone,” he said, adding that if the service was taken away, it would be akin to losing a hand.

Another Santiago Nuyoó resident said that having telephone service was no longer a luxury but a necessity.

“To take a message to some communities in this municipality, you have to walk three hours. I have family in [the community of] Plan de Zaragoza and when my mom got sick, the news didn’t reach there until the next day,” Hermelinda Pacheco told Milenio before making a call on her mobile phone.

“I can’t hear you,” said the person on the other end of the line, proving that while the construction of the mobile network is a big step forward, it hasn’t made communication foolproof.

To improve reliability, TIC is now working to upgrade the network from 2G to 4G, which would give residents of Santiago Nuyoó and other Oaxaca mountain communities the same service as that provided to residents of Mexico’s largest cities.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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