Public internet access expands

News from Cuba | Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Over 100 new outlets

On 14 June, 118 new public internet outlets were opened across the island. Accounts were offered via ETECSA, the state telecommunications company, at a reduced price to tourist hotels which have previously been the main source of internet access for Cubans.

The new outlets will charge 4.50 CUC per hour for world wide web access, 0.60 CUC per hour to navigate the national intranet, or 1.50 CUC per hour for emails. Hotels charge between 5-8CUC per hour.

National paper, Juventud Rebelde, stated that the new cyber cafés were available thanks to the fiber-optic cable linking Cuba to Venezuela, which was completed in 2011.

Cuba estimates that 2.6 million citizens, out of a population of 11.2 million, have access to the Internet which until recently was only available through a slow and expensive satellite link.

“We’re thinking of reaching homes with ADSL technology. We’re trying to drop telephone access, since besides its poor quality, the telephone network is not designed for this kind of access,” Jorge Legra, ETECSA director of strategic programs, said.

“We could be talking about the last quarter of 2014,” Legra said, adding that the service will first be available in areas of the country that have the right technical facilities to make the connection.

Legra acknowledged the difficulties of taking everyone online immediately, but said that Cuba will continue to work on its Internet infrastructure as well as to lower the high prices currently associated with access.

The government currently grants “social” internet use at certain public establishments, blames access problems on the US blockade which has forced Cuba to access the Web through a satellite connection that makes it all very slow and expensive.

The ETECSA director of strategic programs acknowledged that the chief concern of users is the high price of these services, and said the intention is to gradually make the rate more affordable.

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