Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cuba Keeps Private Internet on Hold

Cuba Keeps Private Internet on Hold
May 29, 2013

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban authorities ruled out today widespread Internet
access to homes on the island, despite the expansion of public
infrastructure, reported dpa news.

"It is foreseen that [someday] Cubans may have a connection at home, but
the initial priority under the current circumstances, is for public
access," at government cybercafés, said Cuban Vice Minister of
Communications, Wilfredo Gonzalez Vidal, in an interview published today
in the official Granma newspaper.

The aim is "to reach a greater number of people with the least
investment," he said.

The Cuban authorities announced Tuesday the opening of 118 cybercafés
across the country, thanks to the fiber optic submarine cable laid from

Gonzalez ruled out that the restrictions on home connections are
politically motivated, as people opposing the government contend. "We
reiterate that there are no other limitations than the technological and
financial ones," he said.

The island does not allow private access to the network to its citizens.
Only public institutions, foreign companies and some journalists,
officials and artists can have a connection at home.

Opponents like blogger Yoani Sanchez accuse the government of Raul
Castro of fearing the free flow of information on the net. Sanchez, who
became known for her criticism of the Castro regime in her blog
Generation Y, says she connects to the Internet at the exorbitant prices
(around US $9.00 per hour) at Havana hotels.
Besides the opening of 118 cafes nationwide (12 in the capital), Cuban
authorities announced Tuesday a substantial improvement in the
infrastructure on the island.

This is due to the entry into operation of the fiber optic cable laid
from Venezuela, one of the most anticipated and controversial projects
in recent years.

The cable, a project in cooperation with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, should
improve the very poor internet access on the island, one of the worst in
the world. Until recently, the connection was made only through satellite.

The laying of the submarine cable from Venezuela, which also extends
from Cuba to Jamaica, originally was to be ready in July 2011. Raul
Castro's government, however, was silent on the project until January of
this year.

"The submarine fiber optic cable is already providing services,"
Gonzalez confirmed today.

The new offering of the cafes, in addition to about 200 facilities
already available in hotels in the tourism sector, reduced the price to
US $5.00 per hour of Internet access. This, however, remains high
compared to international standards and exorbitant for Cubans who have
an average US $20 per month salary.

The high priced Internet at the public facilities favors Cubans who
receive remittances especially from the USA and others who have some way
to earn hard currency instead of the devalued regular Cuban peso.

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