In Brazil an ISP Still Roams Free

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News August 2001 Free ISPs in Brazil have been falling apart for quite some time, despite the growing number of Net users. Recently, Internet Gratis (iG), the biggest of the free ISPs, acquired hpG, the biggest free Web-hosting service in Brazil. Two free services getting together won’t make a profitable business, right? Wrong. Both may be running toward profitability. Last month, iG may have turned a corner, after the announcement of the break-even for May and June. Break-even numbers are being audited by PriceWaterhouse, and official numbers will be revealed at the end of the year. “The perfect wedding,” said Nizan Guanaes, iG’s president. HpG has about 540,000 hosted sites on its servers. One year ago, there were only 37,000. And HpG said they have 270 million banner ads each month. The portal was launched in 2000, following the example of Geocities. People could create their own personal websites online, without too much technical knowledge. It’s not a killer app, or even a new resource, but hpG provided a reliable service. Also, the hosted pages have unlimited space for storage. Maybe that’s what made hpG well known in the Brazil. “We were moving toward full break-even for

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Casting a Wider Net in Brazil

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News July 2001 Efforts to connect Brazil to the 21st century continue in earnest as governments and non-governmental organizations endeavor to provide Internet access to poor and rural areas. According to Brazilian Planning Minister Martus Tavares, the government is about to invest $400 million this year to expand Internet use in Brazil. “The idea is to reduce the exclusion of 160 million Brazilians who are outside of the fastest growing sector in the world,” Tavares said. According to government studies, about 11.1 million of the more than 160 million Brazilians are currently online. Despite usage figures that seem low by U.S. standards, the Brazilian government has one of the most developed Internet policies. The government intends to cover every large city — those with populations of at least 600,000 — with Internet terminals, which will be found mainly at post offices. Meanwhile, Brazil’s non-governmental organizations are doing their share to extend the Internet. A non-governmental organization called Viva Rio has launched the Viva Favela portal, whose primary objective is to extend Internet use among those who can’t afford to buy a computer or even a phone line. Net access through Viva Favela is available through a broadband

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AIDS Drugs: U.S. vs. the World

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News May 2001 The Brazilian health system is a model to the world when it comes to fighting AIDS. But it faces the wrath of labs in the United States, which want to regain control of their patents on generic medicines used to fight the disease. Brazil is the only Latin American nation providing free triple therapy, which almost pays for itself by reducing the costs for hospitalization and drugs. Nevertheless, U.S. labs are trying to stop the production of the generics used in Brazil — known as antiretroviral drugs — since they derive from formulas developed and patented in the United States. The Brazilian manufacturers do not pay royalties. In 1998, moved by the high cost of AIDS-fighting drugs, Brazil’s government decided to analyze trademarked drugs and produce its own generic antiretroviral drugs. From the standpoint of being an effective strategy, it worked. According to Far-Manguinhos lab, located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil imports the ingredients from Asia and produces 12 drugs that keep AIDS under control for 200,000 Brazilians. “Our task is purely social,” says Eloan Pinheiro, director of Far-Manguinhos. The lab produces dozens of drugs used against diseases, like malaria, that have largely vanished

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Brazil Declares War on Pirates

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News May 2001 Brazil has launched an all-out war against software piracy, creating a zero-tolerance policy to be implemented May 18 by the newly created Interministerial Committee for Piracy Combat. The idea of the program is not going over well with many in the technology field, who say it will set back the country’s IT progress, rather than help it. According to a report by ABES — the Brazilian Association of Software Companies — Brazil’s economy lost about $1.4 billion because of software piracy in 2000. The report also claims that 56 percent of all software currently used in Brazil is pirated. The International Intellectual Property Alliance says Brazil is the world’s second greatest market for software piracy behind China. The committee’s first target will be computer manufacturers and sellers, because “there have been many occurrences of illegal software being sold pre-installed in new computers,” said Adriana Hack Velho, an attorney specializing in Internet-related issues. The automotive, chemical and transportation industries are also targets of the program. “We’ll try to make pirates follow our copyright law and analyze how reasonable our current legislation is,” said Brazil Minister of Justice José Gregori. “Piracy lowers job offers and damages

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Music Industry’s Red Scare

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News May 2001 Despite the recording industry’s well-publicized efforts to stop online music trading, it doesn’t appear the practice will end anytime soon. Now, with the appearance of a software program known as Comuna, Brazilians have a leg up on their foreign music-trading counterparts. Comuna, taken from “communism,” is supported by Central MP3, one of the most popular music and MP3 related sites in Brazil. Although Marxist ideology hasn’t enjoyed much of a vogue in Brazil since the ’70s, Comuna’s author said it was an appropriate name. “For a program which intends to share files in such a communist environment as the Internet, the name’s fine,” said Mikhail Miguel (not his real name), a webmaster/programmer from Rio. Comuna, which comes packaged with a likeness of Lenin on it, is a Gnutella-based application that is accessible only to Brazilian users. Known to only a select few until recently, Comuna has been creating a buzz after reports about it surfaced in mainstream magazines. “We’re the Comuna’s introducers,” said Fábio Bruzamolin, one of Central MP3’s creators and webmasters. “We showed it to the people.” According to Bruzamolin, Comuna has been advertised at Central MP3 for a long time, although he

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Long-Distance Battle in Brazil

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News April 2001 If you have a relative living abroad, you probably pay a higher phone bill every month. How about calling for free, and at the time you want? That’s happening in many Latin American countries, especially Brazil. “The most difficult issue (in talking with relatives abroad) is the bill; everyone knows that,” said André Ribeiro, a 27-year-old commercial representative in Rio de Janeiro. “No one talks for only a minute or two.” VoIP — voice over Internet protocol — offers the ability to call anyone using a PC with an Internet connection. The call can arrive directly in the phone equipment at very low rates. Sometimes, for free. VoIP in Latin America is not only providing lower rates, but also big headaches to licensed phone operators — companies that are losing huge sums in business revenue. Currently, any Brazilian company is prohibited from allowing VoIP communications, but the rule seems to be ignored. The prohibition will be rescinded on Dec. 21, 2002. Companies providing VoIP use independent channels which are mostly located in Asia and the United States. And they trespass licensed channels used by local operators. Brazil’s phone operators with international long distance -–

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Brazil Could Face Blackouts, Too

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News April 2001 A few months ago, Brazilians were astonished to read about the electricity crisis in California. They couldn’t quite understand how the richest and most developed nation in the world could face that kind of basic –- almost absurd –- problem. That feeling has changed. A Brazilian power crisis is on its way and blackouts appear imminent. It’s now an in-country issue which may affect the entire population, with blackouts possibly beginning before the end of April. The problem is water, or rather, lack of water. Brazil has two nuclear and 16 thermoelectric power plants. They’re operating at maximum capacity, but that accounts for less than 5 percent of the country’s needs. The rest of the country’s energy comes from hydroelectric plants — four main plants and numerous smaller ones. A lack of rainfall and, as a result, drying up of rivers, has caused a significant drop in production. Last year, 95 percent of Brazil’s power came from water, according to Ilumina, a non-governmental organization in the field of electric energy consulting. Other government estimates run as low as 80 percent. But even the lower figure illustrates just how critical the lack of rainfall is

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Brazil Counting on a Net Gain

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News February 2001 The government’s desire to democratize the Internet moved into high gear this month when it announced a project for producing a computer that would cost as little as $15 a month. So what’s in a $300 computer? Or better yet, what’s not? Enough to get on the Internet, but not much more. Researchers from the Federal University of Minas Gerais created a prototype of what’s being called the Popular PC. It features a 500 MHz-equivalent processor, 64MB of RAM, an Ethernet network card, a 56K modem, 14-inch monitor, sound and video cards, serial and USB ports, a mouse and a keyboard. In case you were wondering what’s missing, there is no hard drive, and no Microsoft Windows. “Our intention was to build (a computer) with the minimum requirements, and that could be produced at a very low cost (so that) lower-income Brazilians might have access to all the cultural and educational resources from the Internet,” said Roberto Begonha, head of the university’s computer science department. Brazil is far and away the leader among Latin American countries in terms of Internet access. The country’s 3.9 million Internet users comprise 40 percent of the online population

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Brazil ISPs Drop Like Dot-Coms

Paulo Rebêlo Wired News February 2001 Thanks to last year’s boom of Internet service providers that offered free access, Brazil became the South American country with the highest number of users, analysts say. But the free ISP honeymoon, which was responsible for making the Internet accessible to Brazilians, is over. These ISPs have failed to turn a profit and are either changing their business plans or closing their doors — just as many U.S. ISPs have done in the dot-com shakeout. This comes despite the fact that the number of Brazilian Internet users –- considered to be the fastest growing group online –- increased 67 percent from 1999, according to researcher Chase H&Q. There are currently 14.5 million Brazilian users, and 33 million more are expected to go online by 2003, Chase H&Q said. Still, these numbers pale in comparison to the 100 million Internet users in the United States. And the Brazilian Internet market may never live up to analysts’ expectations. “The free ISP business is a pretty tough business to make work in any market,” Jupiter Communications analyst Lucas Graves said. “They’re still having trouble turning it into a profitable business. The especially difficult thing about Latin America

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