Although selectively, but Cuba will receive internet on the mobile phones as it aims to connect Western Hemisphere’s least connected countries by rolling out internet service nationwide by the end of the year.
The journalists at the state-run news outlets were the first ones to avail the benefits provided by the Cuban telecom companies. According to the new President Miguel Diaz-Canel, the internet provision campaign also aims at boosting the economic status of Cuba. Thus, aiding Cubans in defending their revolution.
Forecasters stated that government’s control over the public access of information reaching in the one-party island state that has monopolized media will be weakened. The Cuban government frowns on public rebel and blocks access to such rebellious or provocative websites.
Yuris Norido, 39, reporting for several state-authorized television and websites thinks this as a radical change. He further adds that the facility has further added to his convenience as now he can update the live status of the news.
As per the ETECSA, the Cuban telecoms monopoly, certain consumers, including embassies and companies have also purchased mobile data plans since December, although it has not yet publicized the move.
The company has also assured to expand its services to all its 5 million mobile phone users i.e. approximately 50% of the Cuban population.
Apparently cash crunch, issues regarding information flow, or a long-running U.S. trade embargo, Cuba has dragged its feet in web access. Internet was only accessible to the populace at tourist hotels in Cuba until 2013.
Introducing outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots and cybercafés, the government has prioritized increasing connectivity. It has also started gradually hooking up homes to the web.
58-year-old Diaz-Canel advocated the cause before he took the Presidential chair from Raul Castro back in April.
Last July in his statement as vice-president he stated, “We should be able to upload the content of the revolution online. Moreover, the residents of Cuba could thus oppose the vulgar, pseudo-cultural, and banal content.
Cuba could utilize the subsidies provided to it to boost the government-funded applications said, experts. Todus, a free Cuba-only messenger was launched last month by ETECSA. As compared to the wider internet, Cuba’s intranet with selected government-approved sites and email is much cheaper to access.
The aim of the Cuban government to connect 60% of phones and at least half of homes by 2020 was clear as it was revealed in a leaked document that contained Cuba’s internet strategy back in 2015.
ETECSA President Mayra Arevich informed the government-approved media in December that it had just connected 11,000 homes last year. Still, Cubans are skeptical.
Yuneisy Galindo, a local resident points out the careless attitude of ETECSA saying that he had been many times to the ETECSA shop to inquire whether he can get a home access. Yet he was denied the connection as the service providers weren’t “ready” and will call him as soon as they are ready.
The Cubans have smartphones since ages, but it is only now that the Cuban government has started installing 3G, even though most of Latin America has moved onto 4G, with 5G testing in its last phase. Can we have slow claps for Cuba?
Cuba expert Ted Henken at Baruch College in the United States said, “This rollout will expand slowly at first and then more quickly if the government is increasingly confident that it can control any political fallout.”
However, the price could prove as one of the major limitations for many. Compared with an average state monthly wage of $30, hotspots currently charge $1 an hour.