I don’t know about you, but one of the first things I think of when I get to a new place is internet access.
Overall, Panama has pretty good internet access. It doesn’t compare to the US or Canada, but for Central America it is excellent.
One reason for this is that Panama, specifically Panama City, is at the cross roads of 5 global fiber optic cables.
I’m not saying that internet in Panama will not be without its frustrations. It may stop for no apparent reason, you may pull your hair out while talking to, or trying to talk to, customer service, and then of course, the internet may be working fine, but you wouldn’t know it because the electricity it out.
However, as you’d imagine, I use the internet all the time in Panama. Overall, while it is not lightening fast, it is more than adequate.
If you are in or near a city or town, it will be fairly easy to get internet. The more remote your location the harder it will be.
Panama has 3 types of Internet
- Cable broadband
In the more developed parts of the country, like Panama City area, Colon and David, you will find high speed (for Panama) broadband cable internet and DSL.
In undeveloped, or older areas, then most likely you will be left with DSL as your fastest option. DSL can be fast, but its speed can fluctuate. In remote areas, the only option is satellite internet. Satellite internet can be very fast, but is more expensive.
At one time, the only Internet provider was Cable & Wireless. But since 2003 when the government opened up telecommunications to competition there have been a growing number of providers.
Puerto Armuelles Resident & her Internet
I asked a friend of ours to share her experiences with various internet companies in Panama. Specifically, in Puerto Armuelles, Panama. She has tried a few providers, while I have only used Cable & Wireless.
Our friend prefers to stay anonymous. I have edited her words slightly for clarity and added sub-headers.
Here is her experience with Internet in Panama.
I have used several Internet providers during my time in Puerto Armuelles.
Currently I have Internet Activo and have been very satisfied with them and their service.
The only down side is they currently do not offer automatic deduction from a credit card for payment. So, I pay them every three months when I go to David. The other option would be to pay at one of the two banks where they offer a payment service of making the deposit and then providing proof of deposit.(Both banks are in Bugaba. But if I drive that far, I don’t see any sense in not just making a David run of it)
Planet Telecom was a personal nightmare for me on so many levels. They promised installation and equipment in a week – it took a month. I was at Andrea’s (an Internet place in downtown Puerto) for hours every day. (They knew not to set the timer on my computer!!) That was a pain because at the time I did not have my truck here.
When I was building my house, I wanted Plant Telecome to pre-wire my house. They sent someone out, finally, to do the pre-wiring. Because I had made an inquiry about the possibility of TV, as well as internet, they just assumed I wanted TV and installed that wiring as well.
I was charged for both the internet wiring and the TV wiring, as well as the travel and time to do the installation. The reality was that they were doing such a poor job that my worker, Jonathan, actually ran the wires! That is when I decided I would no longer do business with Planet Telecom!
I moved into my house and initially had Internet a company that is now called Fidanque. They were very good until they weren’t. I did like that they would automatically deduct the payment from the credit card I provided.
When they started the road expansion project, my Internet service was completely disrupted. I believe it was from interference from all the communications systems the road workers were using. At any rate they never could get the whole signal thing worked out so I had to move on.
Internet Activo (again)
Enter Internet Activo. They had no qualms about putting up an antenna that was high enough to block out the interference from the lower level interference. They are courteous, prompt, speak English and understand my payment schedule. I have been asking them to open a small account at Banco National, but so far no luck. I will ask them again when I go make the next 3 month payment. For some reason they believe that there is a $10,000.00 fee to set up automatic deductions from credit cards. There very well may be; I simply have no expertise in that area.
Cable Onda has an excellent product and I had them for about a minute. (I still have their equipment on my roof).
The guy who signed me up spoke English. The guys who installed did not. After about a week, when I ran into a signal issue, I was dead in the water. No one anywhere in the company could speak English.
Right now, I am waiting for Cable Onda to finish laying all their fiber optic cable and will then I will switch over to them for phone and internet. They do have the best price – about $23.00 for 3meg of internet. Don’t know what it will be with telephone, but don’t think it will be that much more. They started marking their presence with a “deal” on satellite TV (all the blue dishes) so they would have some sort of customer base when they get the fiber optics done.
Cable & Wireless
Cable and Wireless has recently been bought out by someone else. They are unable to deliver 3 meg to Corazon de Jesus even though they say they can when they sign you up (enough theys for ya). Alexandra has them at her house – phone and internet – and the service is reasonably reliable. When there is an issue the repair guy is fairly prompt. They do have English speakers in their call center now so that does help with problems.
Internet Sticks or Dongle
I even tried one of those dongles and it was OK for checking email, but only while I was in the rental house. It never did work once I moved into my house.
(Note: you can buy these internet sticks, or traveling hotspots, from most internet and cell phone providers such as Claro and Movistar. They cost about $15 and the speed is slow. They can be useful for checking email and such in places without any internet.)
That is my Internet saga.
In another post, I (Betsy) will share my Cable & Wireless saga.
In May 2016, Cable & Wireless was purchased by Liberty Global. Hopefully, it will improve. Liberty Global is an American company, is in 30 countries and is the world’s largest international TV and broadband company.
Finding A Good Internet Provider
Here are some things to think about before choosing an Internet provider.
I would take their answers to these questions with a grain of salt, but it could give you a good indication of what it will be like to deal with them.
- Do you they have bilingual customer and technical support?
- Do they send you your bills electronically?
- Can you pay your bill with a credit card without having to present yourself to their offices?
- If there is a problem, what is the average response time to get service at your home?
- What is the policy for bill credits if the service goes down?
- What is their policy regarding providing you the speed that you subscribe to?
Important: Remember to check your Internet speed to ensure you are not paying for more than you are getting. Immediately downgrade so that you are paying for the speed you are getting, not the speed they promise you will get.