The Internet in Latin America:
A detailed look at the cases of Mexico and Uruguay

Flag of UruguayUruguay: A small country with a large infrastructure

        Uruguay is a rare exception in Latin America, as far as its electronic infrastructure is concerned. Its telephone network is 100% digital, which is a significant advantage when trying to ensure widespread Internet connectivity through modern broadband connections. Due to the country’s small size, this network also covers the vast majority of its territory, as does the national power grid. In this sense, Uruguay is in a very favorable position relative to other Latin American countries, but it still hasn’t taken full advantage is this to increase Internet penetration and reap its benefits.

A bit of history

    Uruguay joined what would eventually become the Internet in 1988, through an experimental connection established between the Computing Institute at the University of the Republic and the University of Buenos Aires, in Argentina. In these early days, using this connection required a long-distance call to Buenos Aires. By 1990, the connection was being used by a growing number of the University’s faculty and researchers, so the SECIU, the University’s IT Services department, assumed control over it in order to provide access to all academic disciplines. In 1991, the National Science Foundation approved the use of the .uy domain, and the SECIU became responsible for administering it. At this point, the University began negotiations with ANTEL, the state-owned telecommunications monopoly, to secure a low-cost link to the international network and enable widespread access to it among educational institutions and NGOs.

        At this point the technology’s user base in the country began to expand beyond the University, but only very slowly, due to the high prices set by ANTEL, and the lack of a permanent, 24-hour connection. The first permanent link between the University and the international network came in 1995, launching the Internet proper in Uruguay. That same year, ANTEL began offering dial-up Internet access to end-users and businesses. As a result, the number of Internet users grew exponentially. In 2000, ANTEL lost its monopoly over international telecommunications, which weakened its position as the sole ISP in the country. That year the company began offering ADSL connections, and new ISPs started competing with it by using wireless technologies which do not require the use of ANTEL’s physical infrastructure.

        In the last few years, the number of Internet users has once again grown significantly, and the level of Internet penetration is now relatively high. Recently, however, Uruguay has fallen behind some of the other countries in the region in this respect, despite its outstanding infrastructure. This might be due to the hurdles created by the state telecommunications monopoly, as well as the lack of strong government policies focused towards increasing Internet use among all sectors of the population. Unless these obstacles are overcome, Internet connectivity may remain limited, and the country may miss the opportunity to speed up its economic development.


Zamalvide, Martín. “Estudio exploratorio del proceso de difusión de Internet en Uruguay.”             September 2001. <>.