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Esquivel v. Costa Rican Electricity Institute

Closed Expands Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    January 17, 2014
  • Outcome
    Injunction or Order Granted
  • Case Number
    Exp.: 13-007483-0007-CO
  • Region & Country
    Costa Rica, Latin-America and Caribbean
  • Judicial Body
    Supreme (court of final appeal)
  • Type of Law
    Constitutional Law
  • Themes
    Access to Public Information, Content Regulation / Censorship, Licensing / Media Regulation
  • Tags
    Right to Information, Internet Service Providers

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There is a Spanish language version of this case available.    View Spanish version

Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

The petitioner filed an action to enforce constitutional rights (acción de amparo) against the Costa Rican Electricity Institute and the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission because his community did not have Internet or cellular phone service, and thus their right to communications was being violated. He asserted that the defendants had refused to take the necessary actions to provide these services. The Court ruled in favor of the petitioner and ordered the defendants to conduct an assessment of the possibility of installing the infrastructure needed to provide Internet and cellular phone services in the plaintiff’s community.


Facts

Carlos Esquivel Esquivel lived in the community of Santa Ana de Nicoya in Costa Rica, which did not have Internet or cellular phone services. The Costa Rican Institute of Electricity had conducted several studies showing that providing Internet and cellular phone services in the town would not be profitable. Mr. Esquivel filed an action to enforce constitutional rights against the Electricity Institute, requesting that these services be provided to his community. The Court ruled in favor of the petitioner and ordered the defendant to conduct an assessment of the possibility of installing the infrastructure needed to provide Internet and cellular phone services in the petitioner’s community, within a maximum of six months. It also ordered the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission to determine whether this request could be included among the projects funded by the National Telecommunications Fund (Fondo Nacional de Telecomunicaciones, FONATEL).


Decision Overview

In this case, the Supreme Court of Costa Rica had to determine whether the State had the obligation to ensure the provision of Internet and cellular phone service throughout the country.

The Court began by explaining that universality is one of the guiding principles of telecommunications services. Thus, in order to achieve access to information and knowledge for the entire society, the priority for investments should be the development of communications infrastructure. The State must ensure that all remote areas of the country receive access to high-quality, efficient telecommunications services in a timely fashion, at affordable and competitive prices. The cost of investments in infrastructure installation and maintenance may not be a reason for failing to create the infrastructure needed to provide these services. In the opinion of the Court, any provision of a public service must be designed to foster improvements in people’s quality of life, and not simply viewed in terms of financial impact.

In light of the foregoing considerations, the Court ruled in favor of the petitioner and ordered the Costa Rican Electricity Institute to conduct an assessment of the possibility of installing the infrastructure needed to provide Internet and cellular phone services in the petitioner’s community. It also ordered the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission to determine whether this request could be included among the projects funded by the National Telecommunications Fund (Fondo Nacional de Telecomunicaciones, FONATEL).


Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Expands Expression

According to principle two of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression, all people should be afforded equal opportunities to receive information. The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression, in its 2014 thematic report on Freedom of Expression and Internet, found that States must ensure the universality of the necessary infrastructure and the availability of the technology needed to make effective use of information technology. Thus, in a pioneering manner, this Judgment applies international standards on freedom of expression and Internet to the State’s obligations of implementing infrastructure and enabling universal access to the Internet.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

Table of Authorities

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Costa Rica, Law No. 8642, art. 23
  • Costa Rica, Law No. 8642, art. 31
  • Costa Rica, Law No. 8642, art. 32
  • Costa Rica, Law No. 8642, art. 33
  • Costa Rica, Law No. 8642, art. 36
  • Costa Rica, Law No. 8642, art. 48
  • Costa Rica, Law No. 8642, art. Transitorio VI
  • Costa Rica, Law No. 8660, art. 3
  • Costa Rica, Law No. 8660, art. 39
  • Costa Rica, Sup., Exp. 12-004645-0007-CO (2012)
  • Costa Rica, Sup., Exp. 12-011968-0007-CO (2012)
  • Costa Rica, Sup., Exp. 11-012362-0007-CO (2011)

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court is the highest court in Costa Rica.

Official Case Documents

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