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Brazilian operators facing mobster threat – reportBrazilian operators facing mobster threat – report

Claro, Oi, TIM Brasil and Vivo are said to be losing home broadband business to new ISPs set up by criminal gangs.

Anne Morris

March 29, 2022

2 Min Read
Brazilian operators facing mobster threat – report

Brazil's telcos have had plenty to grapple with of late, what with the ongoing saga around bankrupt Oi's assets and government pressure to build 5G standalone networks as quickly as possible.

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.

Figure 1: Tens of thousands of Brazilians now depend on unreliable broadband networks. (Source: Unsplash) Tens of thousands of Brazilians now depend on unreliable broadband networks.
(Source: Unsplash)

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."

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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."

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Anne Morris

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Anne Morris is a freelance journalist, editor and translator. She has been working in the telecommunications sector since 1996, when she joined the London-based team of Communications Week International as copy editor. Over the years she held the editor position at Total Telecom Online and Total Tele-com Magazine, eventually leaving to go freelance in 2010. Now living in France, she writes for a number of titles and also provides research work for analyst companies.

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