Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cuba To Offer Public Internet At Cyber Cafes, But Access Comes With Hefty Price Tag

Cuba To Offer Public Internet At Cyber Cafes, But Access Comes With
Hefty Price Tag
By Robert Schoon ( | First Posted: May 28, 2013
03:50 PM EDT

Cuba has announced Tuesday that it is joining the information age
starting on June 4, with public Internet access available at 118
Internet centers across the island. But according to the Associated
Press report, Internet access for average Cubans and the web in peoples'
homes will remain quite limited.

The Internet cafes, including 12 in the capital Havana, will be
connected to Cuba's mainline to the Internet: a fiber optic, underwater
cable which connects from Cuba to Jamaica, and eventually to Venezuela,
that has been providing web access to some on the isolated island since
August of last year. That was one year behind schedule, according to the
Havana Times, which said the cable from Venezuela was supposed to be
ready in July of 2011.

Until now, only a few places, like tourist hotels, foreign companies,
the Cuban government and some Cuban businesses have been able to use
that Internet mainline. Now authorities say they will open cyber cafes
for citizens of Cuba. According to the government's Official Gazette,
people will be able to sign up for either temporary or permanent
accounts with the state telecommunications concern Etecsa and use one of
the 118 cybercafes to access the web.

But the cost of accessing the Internet will remain prohibitively high
for many Cubans. Internet access will be charged at the equivalent of
$4.50 — $5 USD per hour for access to the wider web — while access to a
Cuba-only intranet will cost significantly less, at the equivalent of 60
cents per hour. Pay for government employees averages the equivalent of
$20 USD per month in Cuba, says the Havana Times. Still, this is more
Internet access and at a slightly cheaper cost than before, when the
limited Internet that one could find cost $8 per hour.

The AP reports that 2.9 percent of Cubans have Internet access, though
it could be as much as 5 to 10 percent due to Cubans' under-reporting.
For those in the minority who can afford Cuba's Internet, the web still
comes with a filter: pornography and content deemed politically
unacceptable is censored. It's not clear presently if those restrictions
will continue into the new system.

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