Teledata.cl and the recolonisation of rural Patagonia

Beka and Jose in Santiago put us in touch with some lovely people close to Ensenada. Sergio and his Swiss girlfriend Claudia have made a life for themselves in an amazing location on the shore of Lago Llanquihue opposite Volcan Osorno, running a little  telecommunications business bringing internet to rural communities, using some clever technology and line of sight antennae erected on hills, volcanoes and buildings all over the surrounding area. http://www.internetruralchile.com/

They transmit signals over incredible distances of up to 100km and then erect repeaters to spread the signals. They have 37 antennae and are helping communities stay alive in isolated places. Rural schools now have internet access despite being incredibly isolated and many professional people are now repopulating wild places and working over the fast internet that they now have access to, doing jobs like translating, or writing, or architecture.
A university friend of Sergio's called Diego who has moved South from Santiago explained to me how he uses software and Google Earth to work out the best locations to put towers, as their system relies on direct line of sight and even tree coverage can affect this. Diego's dream is that their network covers all of rural Patagonia even as far south as Villa O'Higgins! By chance the only place in southern Chile that can galvanise the steel towers that they make is 20 minutes down the road in Puerto Varas. We're sleeping in the small house where they paint the towers and it also serves as a place for the workers to have lunch.
They rent a small house directly from the local landowner who lives 100m away, and have built a rather stylish 'laboratory' on top of an old container, where Sergio tries out new ideas. There are aerials and towers lying around all over the place. It feels like a fun place to work, always new problems to solve and new ideas to be had. The new experiments involve using model helicopters and aeroplanes to possibly monitor wildlife, fires, volcanoes, salmon fisheries, farms and private houses and the 'lab' is stuffed with flight simulators, computers, control pads, VR glasses, home made kit for monitoring the aircraft and cases for moving them around. Sergio is waiting for better battery technology and is planning ahead.
They have also bought some land and are hoping to build a house on it in the next couple of years. The site is incredible, high in the hills surrounded by natural forest they have cleared space for gardens, outbuildings, vegetables, animals and a place for a house with views directly across to Volcan Osorno. We visited the land and trekked around the maze of paths and bamboo hillsides between their newly made road and the gorgeous clearing where they will build their simple house. This really is the land of opportunity!

Sunset on Volcan OsornoIMG_20140201_134038IMG_20140201_134132IMG_20140201_134144_MG_8903_MG_8906 _MG_8905_MG_8908_MG_8907IMG_20140201_134002IMG_20140201_133930IMG_20140201_134217 IMG_20140201_134205IMG_20140201_134247_MG_8923IMG_3451IMG_3454IMG_3453 IMG_3452_MG_8944_MG_8941_MG_8942_MG_8940_MG_8938
Sergio & Claudia's, a set on Flickr.

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