Cuba to expand Internet access and lower price of WiFi connections

The Cuban government  announced plans to expand internet access throughout the island and lower the per-hour price of Wi-Fi. Cuba plans to add Wi-Fi to 35 state-run computer centers across the island, where internet access remains tightly controlled and illegal at home for most Cubans. Cuba will also  lower the price of Wi-Fi based Internet access from $4.50 to $2 per hour.  

The Internet initiatives were announced in Juventud Rebelde, an official newspaper aimed at the island’s youth, came amid new pressures to increase Internet access as the nation edges toward normalizing diplomatic relations with the United States.  By this July, the state-run telecommunications company, Etecsa, will open 35 hot spots, mainly in parks and boulevards of cities, the company’s spokesman told Juventud Rebelde. Connection will cost just over $2 per hour, half of what it currently costs in an Internet cafe.  However, it’s unclear exactly how quickly the Cuban government will conduct the expansion and how well the connections will actually work.  

Gizmodo says:  “Since the average salary in Cuba is only about $20 a month, that’s still pretty damn expensive. Nevertheless, it’s an improvement over a couple years ago when there was just one internet cafe in Old Havana. Things have been so bad there in recent years that young Cubans have taken things into their own hands and built an elaborate mesh network to create their own thriving underground internet. They also pass internet content around via USB sticks.”

Ted Henken, a professor at Baruch College in New York who has studied social media and the Internet in Cuba, said the decision could mark a “turning point.  Their model was, ‘Nobody gets Internet,’ ” he said in a telephone interview. “Now their model is, ‘We’re going to bring prices down and expand access, but we are going to do it as a sovereign decision and at our own speed.’ ”

Nothing was announced for wireline Internet access to homes or business, probably because of very llimited  DSL depolyment throughout the island.  While the number of residential DSL Internet access lines has not been made public, that service was supposed to have been initiated last year as per this article:

 Cuba’s ETECSA to provide residential DSL services in 2014

Also refer to: 

Cuba’s WiFi access plan raises intresting questions

http://laredcubana.blogspot.com/2015/06/cubas-wifi-access-plan-raises.html


Addendum – Cuba’s Internet Infrastructure:

The country’s Internet capability was greatly boosted by the completion of an undersea fiber-optic cable from Venezuela that came online in January 2013.  Venezuela financed it, a French company built it, and Doug Madory, the guy at Dyn Research who spotted that underwater cable, says it’s got potential you haven’t even tapped: “It’s improved their connectivity to the outside world. However, the improvement of greater access to the people of Cuba, that’s still slow going.”

Authorities say Cuba must prioritize its bandwidth for uses that are deemed to benefit society, such as schools and workplaces. Critics say government prohibitions are the main obstacle to access, although the state has gradually been loosening some controls.

Cuba’s poor Internet access is a grievance increasingly shared across political lines, by entrepreneurs and computer programmers as well as journalists and ordinary citizens who want to communicate with relatives overseas.

It is a source of frustration for young people, a growing number of whom — especially in Havana — own a smartphone that they cannot use to get online. The city’s one hot spot — at the workshop of the artistKcho — is constantly packed.

Over the past two years, the government has opened dozens of Internet cafes and introduced email service for the island’s million or so cellphone users. It signaled its willingness to expand connectivity this month in a leaked report that argued that lack of Internet access was holding back the economy. The report outlined plans to get broadband — albeit slow broadband — to half of Cuban homes by 2020.

According to Wikipedia,  “The Internet in Cuba is among the most tightly controlled in the world.[2] It is characterized by a low number of connections, limited bandwidth, censorship, and high cost.[3] The Internet in Cuba stagnated since its introduction in the 1990s because of lack of funding, tight government restrictions, the U.S. embargo, and high costs. Starting in 2007 this situation began to slowly improve. In 2012, Cuba had an Internet penetration rate of 25.6%.[4] 


 Reference:

U.S.-Cuba Rapprochement: Telecom & Internet Infrastructure is a Top Priority for the Cuban Government!


http://techblog.comsoc.org/2014/12/21/u-s-cuba-rapprochement-telecom-internet-infrastructure-is-a-top-priority-for-the-cuban-government

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