Posted on Saturday, 03.08.14
Cuba allows phone access to some email
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
The Cuban government’s telecommunications monopoly has approved
smartphone access to the island’s nauta.cu system, showing its intention
to both expand and continue to control the flow of information in the
The Telecommunications Enterprise of Cuba, known as ETECSA, announced
Thursday that the service will cost 1 CUC — about $1.20 in U.S. dollars
— per megabyte, an exceptionally expensive rate in a country where the
average worker officially earns $20 per month.
Smartphones in Cuba currently have no access to any type of data
service. Some Cubans use some applications with information, such as the
entire Wikipedia archives, loaded directly from computers with access to
ETECSA also limits access to the Internet to its own stores, government
institutions, doctors and other special persons, and does not offer home
access. Cuba now has the lowest rate of access to the Web in the Western
ETECSA officials in recent months have spoken repeatedly about plans to
improve Internet services this year, from smartphone access to email and
the Web to home access and reductions in rates and bureaucratic snags.
But the high price of access to the nauta.cu system, which works only in
Cuba, shows that the Raúl Castro government remains wary of loosing
controls on the flow of information, said José Remón, a former ETECSA
official living in Miami.
“The first limitation is the price, which is extraordinarily expensive,”
said Remón, adding that his own cellphone’s 220 megabytes of use last
month would cost him about $250 in Cuba. “The second limitation is in
what can be accessed.”
“Limiting this to nauta.cu is because they want to control everything,
monitor everything,” said independent Havana lawyer and blogger Laritza
Havana engineer Victor Ariel Gonzalez, writing recently in his blog
Bastardos Sin Gloria — Inglorious Bastards — joked that ETECSA’s
promises of improved Internet services are barely better than nothing.
“For the average person on the island, the Internet will stop being a
miracle and become just a luxury,” he wrote, “a timid and insufficient
step but one that points toward something positive.”
ETECSA’s announcement, also sent as text messages to clients , said
those who want access to nauta.cu must go to its offices to “enable the
service,” then must configure their smartphones to access the email
Nauta.cu is part of the island’s “intranet” — a Cuba-only network of Web
pages and services. The government regularly blocks the foreign Web
pages it views as hostile, such as the U.S. government’s Radio/TV Martí,
and tightly monitors the country’s cybernauts.
ETECSA officials have said that the expansions and improvements of the
state monopoly’s operations have been made possible by new business
practices, including the permission for persons abroad to pay for Cuban
The improvements are “due primarily to the entry of fresh hard currency
into the country, greatly important to the expansion and modernization”
of the ETECSA services, said a Jan. 26 report by Cuba’s official
National Information Agency.
ETECSA’s promises of better Internet service have not pleased everyone,
In his blog post, Gonzalez noted unconfirmed reports that the
telecommunications company will increase its Internet rates for public
institutions, which will in turn require the institutions to cut back on
the free access they allocate to employees.
Some Havana journalists, for instance, now get 20 hours of connection
per month. State workers who receive such allocations can also sell
their unspent hours on the black market for $1 to $5 per hour, according
to island residents.
“Such a job, even if it has a very low salary, has some value thanks to
the unusual connectivity that it offers,” Gonzalez wrote in his blog.
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