Internet laggard Cuba plans to bring web to Havana homes by year-end
Reuters October 25, 2016
HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba, a few decades late to the internet era, plans
to bring the web into some households in Havana by the end of the year,
the Cuban News Agency (ACN) reported on Tuesday.
Communist-ruled Cuba has one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in
the world. While the government blames cost for lack of investment in
infrastructure, critics suggest the real impediment is fear of losing
control of the media.
So far, only 5 percent of the Cuban population is estimated to enjoy
home-based internet, which requires special government permission.
Usually this is granted mainly to academics, doctors and intellectuals.
The rest of Cuba’s 11.2 million inhabitants must rely on Wi-Fi hotspots
around the island and state internet parlours, although these are
sparsely used because of high rates. The $2 hourly Wi-Fi tariff
represents nearly 10 percent of the average state monthly salary.
A pilot project will bring the web at first into homes of 2,000
residents in Old Havana, ACN reported, citing a senior official at
telecommunications monopoly ETECSA.
The necessary infrastructure has already been installed by Chinese
company Huawei, although rates have not yet been decided, ACN reported
ETECSA official Eudes Monier as saying.
ETECSA is also working on offering internet on mobile phones from 2017,
Cuba currently has around 200 Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide and in September
announced it would install Wi-Fi along Havana’s picturesque seafront
boulevard, the Malecon.
The United States has set connectivity as a priority in its new
relationship with Cuba. Telecommunications equipment, technology and
services were among the first exemptions to the embargo after Washington
and Havana announced on Dec. 17 they would restore diplomatic relations.
Cuba has meanwhile repeatedly charged that the United States wants to
use telecommunications to subvert its government.
(Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by David Gregorio)
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