Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.
Elbert Hubbard (1856 - 1915)
How hard is it to get phone service in Costa Rica?
Not hard at all. But, time consuming? Frustrating? Silly? Ridiculous? Expensive?
In order, the correct answers (at least in our case) are: yes, yes, yes, yes, and not really.
First of all, one topic that I don’t think I’ve touched on before deals with how one goes about obtaining any service in Costa Rica, when one was not born here. This might be anything from ownership of a cell phone, to ownership of a home. I had heard for years that non-Ticos must (as in, you just gotta do this) form a legal corporation, or Sociedad Anónima, and put everything that you can think of into the name of that entity. This was supposedly to protect yourself from being sued for everything you might own, especially in case of something major like a motor vehicle accident.
Well, it is true that ICE won’t talk to you, nor will the Seguro Social, unless you have the paperwork that identifies you as a principle in such a legal entity, or unless you possess that precious cedula. What happened historically, and I’m sure this is still happening, is that many gringos rush to form a corporation before they even begin the process of applying for legal residence, and then they do get phones, lights, cars, homes, everything put into the name of that corporation. This, of course, entails a certain amount of cost, ‘cause you have to pay an attorney to set up the corporation, in the first place. As I understand it, this serves as a valuable tool for many gringos, especially those who don’t speak much Spanish. They evidently tend to use their attorney for more than legal issues, relying on them as well to translate for them.
All of that is neither here nor there, so back to the phone. We knew, while construction was going on, and while we were waiting for our cedulas, that we could not even think of asking for a phone. So, we didn’t. Once we got our cedulas, however, and even before we took our trip to Texas, I went to ICE to request a phone. I carefully explained that I already had undertaken to have the line run from our neighbor’s property, where they were to make the connection, on a pole, down to our property, underground. I also explained that we had a document prepared by our attorney, with all necessary signatures, that gave us – and ICE – permission to run any lines needed over the neighbor’s property.
They said there should be no problem, and upon accepting my deposit, they printed out a document that they said should be posted in a prominent location for their representatives to see when they go to the property to assess what is going to be needed for our connection. We then posted that notice on our house, explained everything to the caretaker, and took our trip. This notice was essentially to their representative/engineer, to see upon his arrival at our property, explaining to him that all fees had been paid, and even listing our eventual phone number. His job, as I understood it, was to simply look over the situation, walk the property as needed, and give the go ahead to their sub-contractor to go ahead and run the additional line (on existing poles, from the road, over the neighbor’s property, to the pole on her property where they were to connect to our line) required.
Upon our return from our trip, we were of course disappointed to pick up the phone, and to see that it still did not work. Timeline to this point, by the way, looks about like this: Request to ICE, in their office, was made by me, and a deposit paid, on or about September 15. We left for Texas on Sept. 20, and returned from Texas on Oct. 10. So, we’re only talking about three weeks and a couple of days.
We naturally asked our caretaker what had happened, and found that he really didn’t have a clue. He thought that someone had come from ICE, but wasn’t really sure (you should be aware that this is as much due to his less than bright mind, as to any actions on the part of any ICE representative). He just couldn’t tell us anything.
So, I went to ICE, and learned that they didn’t really know what had happened, so I asked them to please send their engineer, or whatever, back, so that I could actually talk to him. He came. I showed him my documents. I showed him where my line ran underground. I showed him where the pole is located on my neighbor’s property. I showed him where the line runs, on her property, from the road. He said he understood that ICE did indeed have her permission to run my line on her property, and he said that he would give the go ahead for the connection.
A week went by. Nothing. So, I went again to ICE’s local office. Now, I was told that the engineer, after talking to me, and after reading the documents that I had showed to him, and after being given a copy of said document, had reportedly gone to the trouble to speak directly to the neighbor, asking for her verbal OK. Again, reportedly, she had denied permission. So, I asked how could this be, and why did he feel that he had to talk to her, in the first place. In my presence the clerk placed a phone call. She told me that she was calling my neighbor personally (my neighbor happened to be in San Jose that day, so she called her on her cell). I, of course, only heard one side of the conversation. The clerk concludes her call and says the neighbor has just denied permission to her, yet again.
Ah……….Costa Rica…………gotta love it……..
So, here I am, truly pissed at my neighbor, with whom I haven’t spoken for a time, but who had recently, on the street in town, agreed with me that ICE could run my phone line through her property whenever they wanted to. So, next, a friend of ours, a Tica, and a truly lovely lady, went with Blanca, to talk to our neighbor. Again, she (our neighbor) couldn’t be nicer, and repeated that she had no problem with ICE running my line through her property. As a matter of fact, all agreed that this was the most logical way to hook us up.
So, what we finally figured out was that ICE wanted to run the line down the road, maybe fifty meters west of where our neighbor’s line runs, and make me pay for all of the posts that this would take, so that the line would then be ready for future use. I guess I should mention that we are on a public road (at least according to the municipalidad that has authority over our area. And, here we have yet another Costa Rican idea that is similar, yet very different from what gringos might be used to – municipality might mean a city government, but here it refers to what is more like a county-wide jurisdiction), and let’s face it, it is sort of logical for a public phone line to run along a public road. However, we were very much aware that we were the only ones on said public road, and that the shortest route between us and the nearest lines, was to go across private land, and that is all we were asking for in this instance. But, evidently the fine folks at ICE had decided that by stalling my request, I would eventually agree to pony up the significantly larger amount of money that it would take to do what they wanted, as opposed to simply acceding to my original request.
It only took a few more weeks before one day two guys showed up in a little truck, with a bunch of ladders and stuff, and in less than an hour, they routed wire from the road, along our neighbors existing poles, and hooked us up right where we had asked for it all those weeks before. And, it is still working, what……., about six months later!