Service will start out free; adds to thousands of other installations in the country
There are nearly 1,000 residents living in the Brazilian neighborhood of Pouso Alto in Redenção da Serra—in the state of Sao Paulo. Located in southeast Brazil about 160 miles northwest of Rio de Janeiro, the picturesque town is set amid rolling hills and surrounded by farmland. Two weeks ago, the community was unconnected; last week that changed—with free, high-speed satellite internet service being made available.
In the next few weeks, Viasat will roll out its free Community Wi-Fi hotspot service in 19 additional communities in Brazil — all with little or no internet service.
With Community Wi-Fi, users can connect their devices to the internet at a centralized location – typically a local store or other business. Viasat installed the Community Wi-Fi hotspot service at a Pouso Alto baker across from the local school.
Viasat’s President of Broadband Services Kevin Harkenrider and Vice President of Latin American Internet Lisa Scalpone spoke with members of the local media on-site on July 8, marking the launch of the free service in Pouso Alto.
A woman in a market in Pouso Alto, Brazil uses the Community Wi-Fi service from Viasat.
“We are fully committed to help Brazil close its digital gap by connecting millions of people in the country to high-quality internet, no matter where they are,” Scalpone said. “We want everyone to have access to the same knowledge and opportunities, to have a voice and actively participate in the global community. The Community Wi-Fi trial launch is an important step to connecting all of Brazil.”
Community Wi-Fi will be available at no cost for the next few months, and then various plans will be offered at an affordable price – starting around $1 to $3 Brazilian reais per hour (less than $1 U.S. dollar). Businesses offering the Community Wi-Fi service in each community will have a banner displayed to promote the service.
The free Community Wi-Fi installations are a way to introduce people to the internet service.
“Today, there are still millions of people globally who have no cell or internet service—millions left without connectivity, which has kept them separated from being part of a global community with family and friends, or has limited their ability to stream video and music; gain access to online educational tools, act on information that can help them grow their business; or even find ways to obtain better local healthcare. These are all the things some developed regions take for granted,” said Kevin Cohen, Viasat’s Managing Director of Global Community Wi-Fi. “We want people, everywhere, to be able to experience the internet, and discover how it can enhance both their personal and business lives.”
Service to schools and more
Viasat is not a new name in Brazil. Since late 2018, it’s worked through a contract with the country’s state-owned telecommunications company Telebras. Together, the companies have brought internet service to thousands of health clinics, schools and hospitals across the country—under the e-government initiative known as Governo Eletrônico - Serviço de Atendimento ao Cidadão (GESAC), of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications (MCTIC).
Now the company is adding Community Wi-Fi as part of its services offering, and expects to add residential and aviation services in the future.
Nichole Rostad, Viasat’s Community Wi-Fi Marketing Manager in Latin America commented, “We are focused on more than just getting people online. We also want to help people globally figure out how the internet can best serve them. That includes helping people new to the internet learn how to use it.”
“One of our big initiatives is not just being an internet service provider, but teaching those who haven’t used it before to understand how they can use and enjoy it,” Rostad said. “We don’t want to just provide services; we want to empower people globally to gain personal and professional benefits from optimizing their use of the service.”
Both Rostad and Cohen say they are excited about the possibilities in Brazil and how they can continue to leverage key learnings to bring the Community Wi-Fi to even more communities, globally.
“Our service has an opportunity to influence and impact the lives of billions,” Rostad said. “It is a truly exciting time to be part of Viasat, making connections possible for those that have lived in predominantly unserved and underserved communities.”
Cohen added, “It’s great to be able to grow Viasat’s footprint globally, and bring people into the digital age that have, up to now, been unconnected. Each new place we connect with our Community Wi-Fi service is a major milestone for Viasat and our global society, affecting people’s lives in such positive ways. We’re passionate and committed to be change-makers in bringing connectivity global.”
Jane Reuter has a long history as a newspaper journalist in Colorado. She works as a corporate communications writer out of Viasat’s Denver office.