According to an investigation by Reuters, a new and far more dangerous challenge has emerged: Internet service providers with links to notorious crime syndicates in Brazil are said to be forcibly taking over services in certain Rio de Janeiro neighborhoods and elsewhere.
The news agency quotes a police officer who spoke to a technician from Telecom Italia's Brazilian unit TIM SA. The employee was due to fix an Internet outage, but said armed men had chased him away with a warning not to return.
It seems that these new ISPs are also using stolen equipment, some of which are from the operators. Residents have the choice of signing up with the new provider, or going without broadband access altogether.
Code of silence
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Brazil's operators have not wished to comment on the matter. Reuters noted that TIM, Oi, Claro and Telefonica Brasil (Vivo) referred questions to Conexis, the telecom trade association.
In a statement, TIM did call on the nation's law enforcement to act to protect legitimate operators, Reuters added.
Even more worryingly, the practice seems to be spreading.
Reuters said its interviews and reviews of court filings submitted by police described "an audacious takeover of internet service in dozens of neighborhoods in Brazil's major cities by companies associated with alleged criminals."
Sources told the news agency that tens of thousands of Brazilians now depend on unreliable broadband networks estimated to be generating millions of dollars annually.
Rio state prosecutor Antonio Pessanha was quoted as saying that the Internet is "the new gold for the criminal underworld."
— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading