Cuba: Internet in Your Home from September / Ivan Garcia
Posted on March 15, 2014
According to a spokesman for ETECSA, the only telecoms company in Cuba,
they are going to start marketing internet in peoples’ homes, with ADSL
included, from the first half of September.
We don’t yet know what the price of the installation will be. What has
come to light in a document which we have seen are the different tariffs
for national and international internet surfing.
The document, put out by Ibis Díaz Silva, commercial executive of
ETECSA’s Oficina de Pequeños y Medianos Usuarios (Office of Small and
Medium Users ), indicates that the 20 hour internet package will cost 10
convertible pesos a month, 50 hours 15 cuc (Cuban convertible currency),
100 hours 30 cuc, 180 hours 50 cuc, and 220 hours 60 cuc. There will be
a 90 hour package, usable between 8 pm and 7 am which will be offered at
20 cuc. They will sell additional hours at 30 convertible pesos.
Additionally, starting from September, they will market the local
intranet network at a lower price, where you can find official media.
The connection speed will be between 2 and 4 megabytes.
Gradually, Raúl Castro’s government has taken some steps forward to
provide internet access for Cubans. On 4th June 2013, ETECSA opened 116
navigation rooms in 15 provinces of the country.
Up to this month, according the ETECSA spokesman, about 600,000
customers have connected to the network. Last February 25th, the Gaceta
Oficial de la República (Official Gazette of the Republic) announced new
cellphone internet tariffs. And from 2013, ETECSA workmen have been busy
putting in place wireless networks in different parts of Havana.
The prices of these new services have generated a lot of controversy.
The point is that the Cuban man in the street, with an average salary of
$20 a month, can’t afford the luxury of connecting to the internet while
he has no chicken, fish or meat in his pantry.
One way or another, nearly everybody is complaining. Whether they are
unknown citizens, like the private shoemaker Alfonso Ayala, who has
never surfed the net, or official journalists like Elaine Díaz or
Alejandro Rodríguez, who have criticised the excessive prices in their
“One hour at 4.50 cuc (Cuban convertible currency) is equivalent to 112
Cuban pesos. Repairing shoes, I make between 80 and 100 Cuban pesos a
day. All my income is for buying food and supporting my wife and kids.
As far as I can see the internet continues to be out of my reach,” says
As far as the regime is concerned, the internet is an invention of the
US special services with the aim of colonising information and culture.
Only the inescapable necessity of not continually putting the brakes on
Cuban professional development has forced the government to authorise
access to the internet.
It all started in 1998, when the island was connected up, via satellite,
more slowly and with a narrower band than a public university in New
York. The official press blamed the technological backwardness on the
trade embargo imposed by Washington, which forbids connection to the
underwater cables owned by US companies, which surround the green Cayman
Islands. And we know that Cuba and the USA are continuing with the Cold
War. And truth is the first casualty of any war.
According to the ETECSA spokesman, in 2010, some gringo companies
located in Florida were authorised by the Obama government to negotiate
with Cuba to recommission an old unused underwater cable.
“The project was viable. It cost $18m with a bandwidth right for our
requirements. But the government preferred to bet on the so-called
digital self-government and designed a project jointly with Venezuela
called ALBA1, stated the source.
At a cost of $70m, the submerged cable connected the twin cities of La
Guiara and Siboney in the east, in Santiago de Cuba. There is a spur off
it which goes off to Kingston, Jamaica.
There is a structure of corruption around the cable in the upper
echelons of the Ministry of Communications and Information, which led to
the desertion of a high-up manager of ETECSA in Panama in 2012.
There was no news about ALBA1 until 4 June 2013, following the
government decision to open new navigation rooms. There is no doubt that
the famous cable clearly improved the connection speed.
Before that, in a five-star hotel like the Saratoga, where Beyoncé
stayed last year with her husband JayZ, the connection speed was slow
and expensive. At best it didn’t get past 100Kb. And 2 hours of internet
cost a bit over $15.
From September 2014 on, things are going to change, according to
specialists I have spoken to. It could be that not many Cubans will be
enthusiastic about the new provision, on account of its irrational
pricing. But the ETECSA functionary referred to is optimistic and
considers that the opening up of cyberspace will bring more positives
Photo: A Cuban surfs the net in one of the cyber cafes opened by ETECSA
all over the island in June 2013. Taken by El Universal.
Translated by GH
9 March 2014
Source: Cuba: Internet in Your Home from September / Ivan Garcia |
Translating Cuba –