Cuba’s web is sluggish and costly — however brings welcome change


Nevertheless, at eight a.m. on Thursday, officers with the federal government telecom supplier will for the primary time provide web entry on their cellphones, a key step towards easing Cubans’ technological isolation.

Roughly 5.three million Cubans have cellphones, rather less than half the island’s inhabitants, in accordance with figures launched by the federal government.

Till now, Cubans might solely obtain and ship electronic mail on their telephones utilizing cellphone networks by means of authorities accounts. Providing cellular service might lastly assist meet the pent-up demand for video chatting, social media and even e-commerce.

Solely 60,000 Cubans have web entry by means of a restricted program that enables individuals to attach by means of DSL traces of their properties, in accordance with authorities statistics. Many extra individuals pack the 1,200 plazas, parks and different public areas throughout the island which were outfitted with wi-fi routers, beginning in July 2015.

Entry on the public WiFi hotspots prices the equal of $1 an hour and folks complain of sluggish connection speeds and no privateness. The brand new cellular service was greeted with cautious optimism by many Cubans who’ve been instructed for years by their authorities that they might have 3G quickly.

“I believe it is nice, I wish to use it to remain in contact with my daughters who dwell overseas however I do not know if I can afford it but,” stated Nestor Rodriguez, who stated he makes the equal of some {dollars} a day promoting fried pork rinds in Havana’s winding colonial streets.

ETECSA, the Cuban authorities entity that maintains a monopoly on all telecommunications, stated they might cost the equal of 10 cents a megabyte for the brand new service and launched 4 plans Cubans can buy. The most affordable plan prices about $7 for 600 megabytes of knowledge, or greater than one-tenth of what a extremely paid physician earns in a month.

The common state employee’s month-to-month wage is about $30, in accordance with authorities statistics, making the brand new 3G unaffordable for many who do not have family that ship them remittances from overseas or work within the island’s small non-public sector.

Nonetheless, the Cuban authorities stated the brand new service confirmed a need to modernize and open ever so barely a rustic with among the most restricted web on this planet.

“We preserve advancing within the informatization of the society,” Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel stated in a tweet Tuesday, the identical day of the announcement.

Leonor Cuza Tamayo, 52, chats with a sister in Miami as her son, Jose Luis Rodriguez, 33, holds a light over her head, in 2016.

However different Cubans have been extra skeptical of the opening, saying assessments this yr of the brand new 3G service brought on the community to grind to a halt and crash.

“They’ve been speaking about this for a very long time,” stated Elmer, who runs a small cafeteria from a window from his dwelling and requested that his final title not be used. “You must wait and see if it truly works earlier than giving them your cash.”

For all its purported strides in well being care and training, communist Cuba’s stage of web connectivity was among the many lowest on this planet.

Critics have lengthy complained that Cuban officers need to preserve expertise — and the open movement of data — out of their residents’ arms. The federal government blamed the US commerce embargo for the web drought.

Cuba made the web extra accessible as a part of the December 2014 settlement to start normalizing relations with the US after greater than a half century of estrangement.

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