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Panama - Internet

There are a number of internet service providers in Panama and companies such as AOL have a strong presence. Local companies such as Cable Onda and Diveo Panama provide internet access services. Internet services in Panama have been privatised and as a result there are a large number of companies that users can opt for. Broadband and dial-up services are both common in Panama, with dial-up sufficient for those who want the internet simply to check emails. As more and more people have an internet connection installed in their home, many are choosing to have broadband, mainly due to the special offers from the providing companies.

Broadband services are widely available and the major cities have internet cafes for those who do not have access to the internet at home. The cost of using an internet cafe varies but it is usually around $1 per hour. In the last few years, internet usage has grown considerably and this trend is expected to continue. In a government project run in 2010 the population of Panama was offered free wireless broadband, and this covered around 80% of the population.

The Panamanian government is aware of the importance of internet access on areas such as business and education and the investments are being made in these areas. Most people are using the internet simply to send and receive emails and to carry out simple searches, but internet usage is becoming more popular for business and this is having an impact on home usage.

Arranging to have internet installed in your home is relatively easy. If you have telephone services already then internet can often just be added on to the package that you have. If not you can arrange to have the two installed at the same time, as most internet providers also provide telephone services and you will be sent just one bill each month.

As an expat you may be required to provide a certain amount of documentation. This will vary from company to company but may include items such as a copy of your tenancy agreement to prove that you have the right to have the service installed, a copy of your passport and your agreement to a minimum contract period, often 12 months. Contracts can often be moved with you if you move house part way through the contract.

Wi-Fi use is on the increase and the internet providers are realising that this is the way forward. Internet hot spots are being established throughout all the larger urban areas and free internet is now available in many of the country’s hotels, shopping malls, universities and restaurants. There has also been a steady increase in the number of people accessing the internet through Blackberry phones and other smart phones, increasing the need for wireless hot spots.

Some areas make use of a hot spot network that works from pre-paid cards. Customers in restaurants, tourist areas and hotels can purchase a card and use the internet. The cards come in different denominations and they can use the cards at a specific time. The cards can be bought at any venue which is offering this service. Some areas have a similar service but do not charge for it. Travellers can look out for the service at Tocumen International Airport, Crown Plaza Hotels, Best Western hotels and many others. Those venues which offer this service will be clearly advertising it and advising customers if it is a paid service or not.

Internet speeds vary widely and customers can choose a plan which suits their needs. Those who are using the internet for downloading will need a faster speed than those who are using the internet for simply checking emails.

Paying the bill for internet usage can be done in a number of ways. Customers can simply go to one of the provider’s shops or agents to pay the bill in cash or by credit card. An automatic payment can also be set up from the customer’s credit card or a direct debit system can be used to make the payment directly to the company’s bank account. Some supermarkets and shops have a pay system where you can take your bill and make the payment.

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