Cuba to launch mobile internet for the first time

Cuba has lagged far behind most countries in Web access, whether because of a lack of cash, a long-running U.S. trade embargo or concerns about the flow of information
Cuba to launch mobile internet for the first time
Nearly half of the Communist-run country’s 11.2 million residents have cellphones although not all will be able to afford mobile internet - Photo: Alejandro Ernesto/REUTERS
06/12/2018
16:30
Reuters
Havana
Sarah Marsh
-A +A

Cubans will be able to access the internet on their mobile phones from Thursday, state-run telecoms monopoly ETECSA said, marking a milestone for what has long been one of the Western Hemisphere’s least connected countries.

Nearly half of the Communist-run country’s 11.2 million residents have cellphones although not all will be able to afford mobile internet.

In a news show broadcast late on Tuesday, ETECSA executives announced a range of packages valid for 30 days from 600 MB for the equivalent of USD$7 to 4 GB for USD$30. Without a package, 100 MB will cost users USD$10.

The cost will be out of reach for many Cubans as the average state wage is around USD$30 per month, and many people rely on remittances from relatives abroad or side gigs to get by.

Cuba has lagged far behind most countries in Web access, whether because of a lack of cash, a long-running U.S. trade embargo or concerns about the flow of information.

Until 2013, the internet was largely only available to the public at tourist hotels on the island.

But the government has since made boosting connectivity a priority, introducing cybercafes and outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots and slowly starting to hook up homes to the Web.

Many Cubans complain about having to brave insects and the elements at the hotspots, which also lack of privacy.

Tania Velázquez, ETECSA Vice President, said the company would be rolling out the service over several days in order to avoid the network congestion that occurred during mobile internet testing earlier this year.

Velázquez announced that access to state-run applications and websites like Ecured, a Cuban Wikipedia, would be significantly cheaper than access to the World Wide Web.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who succeeded Raúl Castro in April, has championed greater connectivity, underscoring the potential for internet to boost the economy and enable Cuba to better defend its revolution online.

He opened a Twitter account in October to much fanfare, and many government officials have followed his lead.

sg

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