MEXICO CITY (03/11/2000) - Terra Networks, the Latin American portal that formed last year, has begun offering free Internet hookups in Mexico. Terra Libre, as the service is known, began operating on the portal's Mexico site March 5.
Arturo Galvan, general director of Terra Networks in Mexico, said the move was intended to spur Internet subscriptions in the world's largest Spanish-speaking country, which has so far been a sluggish market. "We feel the market in Mexico finds itself in a vicious circle," Galvan said. "People don't subscribe to the Internet because they don't know it, and they don't know it because they don't subscribe.
So we're caught. If we want the market to grow at the speed it's growing in more developed countries, we need to break this cycle." The company offers a more powerful and faster paid Internet connection as well, Galvan said. "The hope is that we'll break this cycle, people will begin to appreciate the Internet, and then decide to subscribe to our paying service. This will allow us to increase traffic to our portal and with that increase our advertising and email business."
Currently, Galvan said, Mexico has an estimated 2.5 million Internet-ready computers, but only 750,000 of those are connected to the Web. "Terra Libre will go after this market (of 1.75 million non-connected computers)," Galvan said. "They don't want to go online because they don't want to pay 200 pesos a month." Terra formed last year, and is the result of a fusion of several portals in Brazil, Chile, Mexico and other Latin American countries. Terra is the first to offer free Internet service in Mexico, which it already offers in Spain, Brazil and Chile.
(Sam Quinones is a freelance writer.)