Demand high, Cuba keeps expanding Internet service

This downtown corner of Havana is always bustling with groups of people eager for Wi-Fi service.

(Soundbite) Alejandro Torres, Cuban
“These areas contribute a lot especially to Cuban youth, who want to know and have much more information about what is happening around the planet. It is also important for Cubans to get information and stay in touch with family and friends.”

Such a landscape represents the latest strategy adopted by the Cuban government to increase web penetration in this island nation, which suffers from the lowest rates of Internet connectivity in Latin America and the Caribbean.

(Soundbite) Tania Velasquez, Commercial and Marketing Director of ETECSA
“In 2015, Wi-Fi service was mobilized for 65 public areas. We began in July with 35 areas mainly in populous zones and parks. Then we expanded it to 30 more places. In 2016, to continue this project, we will have 80 more Wi-Fi spots.”

ETECSA, the state telecommunication company, seeks to expand Internet access throughout the island, pioneered with public Wi-Fi spots.

(Soundbite) Jesus Vivero, Student
“The Wi-Fi areas should be expanded for the youth to have more access to the Internet. As college students, we have to interact with other faculties. Research papers are uploaded to the Internet and students need to contact the world.”

Cubans now must buy cards or recharge their permanent Internet accounts at a cost of 1.75 U.S. dollars per hour to stay connected.

The price is considerably high for most Cubans, as the average monthly income for a state worker is around 24 U.S. dollars per month.

(Soundbite) Dayana Prieto, Cuban
“Ideally, we would like access to the Internet at home at cheaper price of course.”

Cheap and direct to home or hand phone, this is the common challenge for Cuba’s Internet strategy and a major topic when Cuban companies work along with international telecommunication providers to realize their plans.

(Soundbite) Andres Perez, Cuban
“I want ETECSA to provide Internet service to my home, because the technology is very advanced and we should reach the same level other countries have reached.”

While trying to satisfy the ever rising demand for web service, state companies still face difficulties and official limitations in securing equipment and technology from their foreign partners, especially those in the United States.

(Soundbite) Tania Velasquez, Commercial and Marketing Director of ETECSA
“These restrictions prevent us from taking steps in another direction. We have held meetings with American technology providers and facility manufacturers (in this regard). The contents to be studied and learned might be their real future possibilities of doing business in Cuba.”

In the coming months, Wi-Fi service and broadband Internet access are expected to rise by large margins in this nation.

The island will probably soon catch up with its Latin America and the Caribbean neighbors in the rates of Internet connectivity.

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