Old Havana, Internet Territory / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar
14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 7 January 2016 – A few lights blink in
Julian’s living room, on San Ignacio Street between Teniente Rey and
Amargura in Old Havana. This week he was given a router to connect to
the internet, as a part of a pilot project being carried out in the
area. However, the old man has no computer and hasn’t managed to enter
the great World Wide Web.
The Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Etecsa) has chosen 2,000 users
in the People’s Council districts of Catedral and Plaza Vieja for a free
experiment in web connectivity from their homes. The requirement was to
have a landline, but many residents who qualified do not have the
technology to enjoy the service.
“I leave it on all the time so it doesn’t get damp,” says Julian, of the
apparatus whose LEDs twinkle in his modest home. The old man dreams that
they will also offer a “time payment plan” so he can get a laptop, just
like was done “with the purchase of the refrigerator.”
So far, navigating from home has been a privilege reserved for high
officials, highly trusted professionals and foreigners living in Cuba.
Those connections were established through the old-fashioned dial-up
method, but the new test is being done with the faster ADSL lines.
The requirement for enrollment in the pilot was to have a landline, but
many residents do not have the technology to enjoy the service
For Julián, the main benefit would be to connect with his family living
abroad, although he acknowledges that, “Really it’s all the same to me
to have the internet or not.”
The experience of Liensey Martínez, a young resident of Teniente Rey
Street between San Ignacio and Cuba, is different. He has a computer and
with the delivery of the router, a TP-Link brand, he is able to also put
in a home wifi network to connect to a tablet or cellphone.
“The connection works well, sometimes it gets slow, but it almost never
freezes,” says Martinez, who operates a private business in his home
renting rooms to tourists. “We benefit a lot because we make almost all
reservations online and now it is more convenient. Before we had to go
to the Plaza Hotel or a Wi-Fi zone,” he says.
The entrepreneur details that the pilot test includes 30 hours of free
navigation during the month of January and a similar amount for
February. However, “I can also enter my Nauta navigation account using
my username and password,” and use the balance deposited in that service.
The experiment will conclude on 28 February, but the hourly rates for
navigation packages have not been made public. “People say there will be
packages of 30, 60 and 100 Cuban Convertible pesos (CUCs, which are
about the same in dollars) depending on the hours but that’s just rumors
that hear,” Martinez says.
Old Havana is one of the country’s municipalities with the most wifi
zones, a good part of them located in the hotels, but there is also one
on the corner of the centrally located Obispo Street at San Ignacio. But
the connection from these points remains expensive for most wallets,
although Etecsa recently lowered the price of one hour of Internet
browsing from 2.00 CUC to 1.50, in a country where the average monthly
salary barely exceeds the equivalent of 25.00 CUC.
Cuba is one of the countries in the world with the lowest rates of
internet penetration; as of July 2015 the state monopoly of
telecommunications has enabled public Wi-Fi hotspots, which now number
more than 200 throughout the country. According to official figures
about 250,000 users connect in these areas daily.
In recent weeks antennas for a wireless connection have also been
installed in in several places along Havana’s Malecon and the company
plans to extend service all along the coastal boulevard. The wifi zones
at Hola Ola, La Piragua, 12 and Malecón, 3rd and B, and Fuente de la
Juventud are already operational.
However, eyes are watching Old Havana. Cubans are waiting for 2017 to be
the year they can finally become internet users.
Source: Old Havana, Internet Territory / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar –
Translating Cuba –