Internet in Mexico [Internet Monitor]

Internet in Mexico

Lack of infrastructure and the outsize control of telecom monopolies have impeded the growth of Internet use in Mexican society. The country’s Internet penetration rate of 38 percent trails many of its OECD counterparts. Despite the Mexican government’s (as of yet unrealized) plans to build a nationwide fiber optic network, access in rural areas remains low. Nevertheless, the Internet has still attracted a significant number of users, including activists who use social media to voice their opinions on topics such as animal cruelty, racism, and media bias. The Mexican government does not appear to filter or block information online, but journalists are known to engage in self-censorship, especially when covering drug violence or government corruption. Several journalists and Internet users have been threatened, beaten, or killed for their work.

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Access in Mexico

Internet penetration in Mexico stands at 38 percent, a low rate given the country’s level of economic development. Lack of infrastructure and competitive pricing means that Internet access remains largely limited to the wealthy and those in urban areas. Mexico has the second lowest rate of fixed broadband subscriptions of OECD countries at 12 percent; the OECD average is 26 percent. The government announced a USD 115.5 million investment in a nationwide fiber optic cable network, but rural areas largely still lack access. Billionaire Carlos Slim controls most of the telecommunications market in Mexico; his company serves more than 70 percent of landlines and 75 percent of mobile phones. The company also serves 87 percent of broadband Internet subscribers. Mexico’s primary telecommunications legislation dates to the 1960s, and two government agencies manage telecom regulation. In a January 2012 report, the OECD offered several recommendations to modernize the industry. It estimates that lack of competition cost Mexico USD 129.2 billion between 2005 and 2009.

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Control in Mexico

Mexico does not restrict content on the Internet, and OpenNet Initiative testing has found no evidence of filtering or blocking. Freedom of the press, however, is far from secure. Cyberattacks plague news websites, with Article 19 reporting 15 such attacks since 2011. Self-censorship among journalists is also common, as those who write about drug cartels or government corruption can face deadly reprisals. The brutal murders of four netizens in 2011 who spoke out about drug violence on social media prompted forum moderators to caution users to protect their anonymity. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Mexico seventh in its 2013 Impunity Index, saying the country has “failed completely in the prosecution of numerous past slayings.” Mexico recently passed a bill that increases the federal government’s ability to act in crimes against journalists.

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Online Activism in Mexico

Internet-based activism in Mexico dates to 1994, when the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) used email to raise awareness of marginalized indigenous groups in the state of Chiapas. In 2006, a blog called El Sendero del Peje provided news about a disputed primary election. Mainstream media dedicated scant coverage to the candidate who questioned the results, but the site at one point became the most read blog in Latin America. Social media has also played an instrumental role in the spread of news in Mexico. In 2009, Mexican netizens posted 100,000 tweets within hours to protest proposed telecom taxes. Mainstream media picked up the story, eventually prompting Congress to hold hearings on the topic and to ultimately scrap the proposal. YouTube videos have called attention to animal cruelty and racism. In 2012 a student-organized movement called Yo Soy 132 gained national attention when a YouTube video of a protest went viral. The group challenged media bias in Mexico’s election coverage.


This is a Harvard Berkman Center Research, available at:



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