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Venezuela Table of Contents



The national telephone company (Compañía Nacional de Teléfonos de Venezuela--CANTV) was one of the most notoriously inefficient of government enterprises. According to some estimates, CANTV satisfied only 60 percent of national telephone demand in the late 1980s. An estimated 1.8 million telephone lines served 1.4 million subscribers in 1988, and a backlog of at least 1 million persons awaited a telephone line. As a consequence, several utilities, oil companies, and the military maintained their own private telephone networks. To get telephones installed, wealthier consumers placed ads in papers, bribed telephone crews, or paid exorbitant rates for cellular telephones. CANTV's inefficiency stemmed from poor management, deficient maintenance, low quality of service, and pervasive political patronage. As late as 1988, only 40 percent of Caracas residents enjoyed direct-dialing capabilities. The Ministry of Transport and Communications' plan to alleviate the country's telephone crisis called for a US$1.6 billion expansion program from 1989 to 1992, with the goal of providing 1 million new direct-dial telephones in that period. The expansion program also sought to upgrade the country's dialing exchanges and data transmission facilities, and to foster the use of fiber-optic technology. It also pursued new satellite facilities through a joint venture with COMSAT (Communication Satellite Corporation), an American company, to be managed by the Andean Satellite Corporation (CONDOR) by 1994. Other planned reforms called for CANTV to revise its rate structure and to loosen its monopoly by creating several competing companies. Full and eventual privatization was also a possibility.

A subsidiary of CANTV, the Postal and Telegraph Institute (Instituto Postal Telegráfico--Ipostel), provided mail and telegraph services. Both services were generally very slow and unreliable despite the existence of 800 telegraph stations nationwide. As a result, the use of motorcycle mail carriers was common. CANTV also administered 17,500 telex lines for more than 13,000 subscribers, over half of whom were in the metropolitan Caracas area.

Data as of December 1990