Crisis Heroes: How a Costa Rica Internet Company Is Helping Out In Times Of Coronavirus

As global tourism evaporates during the coronavirus crisis, one small Costa Rica internet company is reaching out to try to make life easier for struggling businesses in that country. 

Costa Rica is a country driven by tourism. Tourism employs some ten percent of the country in a wide range of businesses, from hotels to transportation and food services to surf instruction and nature guides.

The travel restrictions we’ve seen put in place have caused a massive upheaval to tourism around the world, and Costa Rica is no exception. In fact, the size and importance of Costa Rica’s tourism sector means this upheaval hits all the more harder.

And although these restrictions might well be necessary to win the war on COVID-19, the pain is still real.

Thousands of people have canceled their vacations to Costa Rica, unexpectedly and abruptly. So much so that travel agents, tour operators, and hoteliers say the unprecedented call volume of canceling tourists is crashing their customer service centers.

To add to the anxiety, Costa Rica is now under mandated quarantine. New measures keep coming in designed to flatten the corona curve and keep everyone at home.

It’s vital to follow these instructions for the good of the public health. But like everywhere else, quarantine puts Costa Ricans under severe financial stress.

To make matters worse, because so many Costa Ricans are self-isolating, domestic online activity has gone through the roof.

Domestic internet service providers (ISPs) in Costa Rica aren’t used to accommodating everyone at once, all day.

In a normal world, the ISPs expect domestic online activity to spike during set times of the day. These times typically include the early morning before people go to work, around lunchtime when people come home to eat, and then during the evening.

This is when you can expect your internet to slow down, as online activity rises. Think of it like driving during rush-hour. More people are on the road, bringing traffic to a crawl.

They call this oversubscription.

Another issue is that ISPs often oversell their services. So oftentimes, there are more people subscribed to an internet service than the service has capacity for. This also causes a slowdown.

So when you suddenly have everyone trying to run their businesses from home, you see the oversubscription issues we see at normal peak times stretching out all day.

And then you add in the overselling, which combined with the oversubscription, becomes a logistical nightmare for Costa Rican tourist businesses trying to communicate with their clients.

It’s times like these where goodwill is all important. It’s critical that travelers and tourist businesses have a clear line of communication with each other.

The last thing anyone wants is communication problems due to bad internet. In times like these, that makes an already fraught situation worse.

The extra demands on tourism plus more people online all day at home have created more pressure on Costa Rica’s creaking internet infrastructure . And thus more stress all round.

But one local business has decided to show empathy in a time of crisis.

Itellum, a local ISP based in San Jose, is offering three months service at a near-50% discount to new customers affected by the coronavirus crisis.

US expat Tim Foss, the CEO and founder of Itellum, said he realized he needed to do something when the hashtag #SavePuraVida popped up on his phone.

He thought about how he could play a part in helping Costa Rican businesses endure this (hopefully brief) setback.

I’ve lived in Costa Rica for almost 10 years and I’ve seen enough to know that the ‘Pura Vida’ lifestyle is real”, said Foss.

“I’ve been treated with such overwhelming kindness since arriving here, in both my personal and business life. It’s a no-brainer for me and Itellum to give something back”.

How Itellum differs from other ISPs in Costa Rica is that they exclusively deliver dedicated internet services utilizing the newest infrastructure and unshared connections. Itellum provides services via fiber optics, wireless technology and satellite broadband connections.

María José Pérez is the marketing manager at Villa Buena Onda, a boutique hotel in Playas del Coco in Costa Rica’s northern Pacific region of Guanacaste.

“Before Itellum, our front desk at Villa Buena Onda was having problems with the internet at night when we had many clients checked in. The reason for this was because we had such low bandwidth, it was impossible to navigate when the hotel was full”, she says.

“Now we have a much better connection, more speed, more bandwidth, and we’ve had no problems.”

If the coronavirus crisis is affecting your company, reach out to Tim Foss and Itellum. Contact them online or call them on +506 2588 2079.

And if you’re in business in Costa Rica and you’re rallying around the call to #SupportCostaRica and #SavePuraVida during this crisis, tell us.

Contact us to let us know what you’re doing to help and we’ll be happy to give you a shout out.

As a community, anything we do to help out businesses here, in tourism or otherwise, will help save jobs and save the pura vida vibe of this wonderful, tropical country.

James Dyde is the editor of centralamerica.com. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.