Residents and students in the rural area of Santa Filomena, in the interior of Piauí (PI), are required to watch a 30-second advertising piece with social programs from the government of Jair Bolsonaro whenever they use the public internet. The advertisement is broadcast as a requirement of the Wi-Fi Brazil program, of the Conecta Brasil project, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Communications. Most of the project’s funding is earmarked for the North and Northeast regions, where Bolsonaro had the worst performance in the 2018 Elections.
Students from Piauí only have access after advertising
In the village of Sete Lagoas, every time someone accesses the network for any reason, government advertising pieces are reproduced. The only app that runs without the need for ads is WhatsApp, the network where Bolsonaro is known for being strong in amplifying messages to its base of voters and supporters.
“To use Google and Caixa Tem, we watch the video,” says Gabriela Silva, 14, a 9th grade student at the Anita Suder Municipal School, located in Sete Lagoas, to state. If any resident of the northeastern town takes a long time to use the network, he is automatically disconnected and needs to re-watch the government’s propaganda.
In Sete Lagoas, before the arrival of Wi-Fi Brazil, the inhabitants used a tower that sent a network signal to the village. But it was blown down by a gale in December 2020, and since then residents have communicated mostly through letters. Located 60 km from the urban center of Santa Filomena, the place also lacks a telephone signal. In this context, students who wanted to access the internet to study were moved to farms in the region, but some were unable to travel the distances, which led them to do only the tasks that the teachers delivered at home.
Wi-Fi Brazil reaches 26 million
According to estimates by the Ministry of Communication, at least 26 million Brazilians now have access to broadband through Conecta Brasil — the government’s program has a budget of R$2.7 billion.
Of this money, 91% will go to states in the North and Northeast, strongholds of opposition to the Bolsonaro government. In 2018, the current president lost to the PT candidate Fernando Haddad in the second round; in the North, Bolsonaro won, but only by a small difference in votes when compared to other regions of the country.
Among the social programs listed in government advertising via Wi-Fi Brasil, are the payment of the 13th salary of Bolsa Família and the installation of an internet signal in schools, according to screen prints captured by the state.
To boost popularity in the Northeast, the region with the second highest percentage of voters in Brazil — there are 39.2 million Brazilians, corresponding to 26% of potential votes —, Bolsonaro plans to carry out a sequence of actions and trips to capitals and northeastern municipalities. The intention of the president’s agenda of appointments is to reduce an advantage over his main adversary, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT).
Bolsonaro was in the Santa Filomena region on May 20, together with the Minister of Communications, Fábio Faria, and his son, Carlos Bolsonaro, councilor for Rio de Janeiro and one of those allegedly responsible for articulating a known network of defamation and false news. as a “cabinet of hate”. They attended the northeastern semiarid precisely to inaugurate the installation of the public Wi-Fi signal.
At the event, Fábio Faria highlighted that the internet was an alternative source of information to what he called “news against the president”. And he took the opportunity to point out that there was a persecution of Carlos Bolsonaro.
North Connected and mandatory advertisements
In the other region with more delicate support, the North, students from public schools are also only able to access the internet after watching advertisements from the federal government.
Norte Conectado, which is a segment of Conecta Brasil, will have a total of two of the nine fiber optic inforoads installed in an election year, in 2022. Another seven will be completed by 2025.
“The total investment for Norte Conectado is around R$1.8 billion, of which R$248 million has already been transferred. The remainder is conditioned to the holding of the 5G auction”, the Ministry of Communications told the state.
The high cost of the project is due to the difficulties of installing communication networks and optical fiber in a region with a high concentration of rivers. To carry out infrastructure construction, the government needs to carry out hydrographic studies and environmental licensing is required. Part of the 12 km of cables must pass under rivers to reach communities. It is not known how many people will benefit until next year, because the transfer of funds for this type of project should only take place after the 5G auction, scheduled to take place on November 4th.
But residents of the Rio Negro region already receive government advertisements every time they want to access the internet. There live 23 indigenous ethnic groups, and residents receive messages and advertisements against organizations responsible for building relationships between indigenous people and the population.
Marivelton Baré, president of the Federation of Indigenous Organizations of Rio Negro (FOIRN), says that messages with misleading content about NGOs operating in the area are frequently sent:
“We have been guiding people with this fake news business, which is very common, especially at the present time. As this is a border region, there is also the Army talking about national sovereignty (against NGOs)”
Sought by Estadão, the Ministry of Communications informed that Digital Cities sent R$ 44.8 million in investment in the Northeast. Of this amount, R$ 16.4 million were transferred to the Bolsonaro government.
According to the folder:
“The placement of institutional videos is provided for in the basic project for the implementation of free internet access points in public locations, through the Wi-Fi Brazil program, and is an important instrument for disseminating public utility messages.”
With information: Estadão