Commodity exports have fueled economies in the region but infrastructures remain underdeveloped. This came to a head in Brazil in June as the country launched preparations for the FIFA World Cup tournaments next year and the Summer Olympics in 2016.
Brazilian protesters clashed with police to demand more equal distribution of economic benefits from the country's commodities boom. In Chile, student protests focused on poor education opportunities and lack of basic amenities including Internet connectivity.
Governments have battled to cope with organized crime amid limited Internet connectivity, forcing authorities to invest more in technology to bring law-enforcement systems up to speed.
The report from Argentina's Universidad de San Andres and the Internet Society non-profit organization cited "significant cost savings and performance gains" from an increase in numbers of Internet Exchange Points in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador. Achievements elsewhere in Latin America and the Caribbean have been less noteworthy.
The Internet Society, which published the independent report's results Tuesday, said the findings show the "far-reaching economic and societal benefits" of establishing IXPs in emerging markets.
Little understood outside specialist users, an IXP is a physical infrastructure through which Internet service providers exchange Internet traffic between their networks. IXPs across Earth keep the Internet going.
The study was commissioned by the Internet Society and conducted by Prof. Hernan Galperin of the Universidad de San Andres in Argentina.
It examined the critical cost and performance benefits of IXPs in the four countries surveyed, seen to be on "the leading edge of Internet growth in Latin America," the report said.
Researchers liken IXPs to airports and their impact on telecommunication to the effect on population centers of increased air transport links.
More than 350 IXPs around the world enable local Internet service providers and Internet backbone carriers to efficiently and cost-effectively exchange Internet traffic. Many emerging markets do not have well-established Internet Exchange Points, which forces domestic Internet traffic onto expensive long-distance international links.
Argentina has nine IXPs connecting more than 80 network operators. Internet transit costs in Argentina were cut from $500 per unit per month to about $40 for the same amount of data transfer and same period.
Brazil operates 22 IXPs that cover 16 of the country's 26 states.
Ecuador's IXP system has helped savings of about $7.2 million a year.
The Colombian exchange point likewise has cut costs and increased service reliability.
"This study highlights the critical role that IXPs are playing in Latin America – from human capacity and network development to better quality of service and increased uptake of services," said Sebastian Bellagamba, regional bureau director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Internet Society.
Lead author Hernan Galperin said IXPs' role "is likely to become more important as countries in the region address existing challenges such as network security, the improvement in the quality of services, and the reduction in access prices."
The Internet Society, founded in 1992, has headquarters in Reston, Virginia.
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