Talea De Castro is receiving renewed attention following their tremendous feat of defying Mexican telecommunication providers by creating their own phone system. The small village in Oaxaca's mountains established the country's first independent phone network by utilizing the internet to make phone calls. The town's indigenous Zapotec community voted to invest $400,000 pesos ($30,000) of the community's money into the system which defies Telecom mogul Carlos Slim's nationwide Telmex service which many Mexicans see as a monopoly of the country's communication system.
Talea De Castro's indigenous residents used to have to walk down to the single community landline in order to make a phonecall. "We have been constantly requesting Telmex to come install land lines in the village," says a resident in the village. "But they have refused every time and we haven't been able to get more phones here." The new system utilizes a small antenna to capture incoming calls using software-controlled radio. The new system allows villagers to make calls for as little as 15 pesos ($1.12) - rates cheaper than what most people pay in Mexico City.
Telmex has long been accused of running a communications monopoly in Mexico. A 2012 report from the OECD found that "the lack of competition has led to extremely high prices for consumers and businesses and slowed the take-up of new services. The OECD estimates the cost to the Mexican economy to be around USD 25 billion each year, equivalent to nearly 2% of GDP." Carlos Slim, who owns Telmex, is listed by Forbes as the worlds richest man, worth an astounding $74 billion dollars.
Talea De Castro's defiance of Slim's Telmex network is a small sign of rebellion. However, it points to a deep need in the country to alleviate what has become an increasingly difficult problem costing the country billions of dollars. None moreso than poor villagers such as the residents of Talea who have little means for communication beyond landlines.