Cuba to begin full net access for phones

Joanna Estrada
December 7, 2018

Cubans will finally have access to the internet from mobiles after the government revealed on Tuesday evening that it would launch 3G services.

For years, when Cubans talked about 3G mobile internet arriving on the communist-run island, it was with the same sarcasm that people in other countries reserve for discussions of flying pigs and hell freezing over.

"It was about time this became a possibility for Cubans too", he told ABC News.

And although half of Cuba's 11.2 million population own a mobile phone, not all will be compatible with the 900MHz spectrum used by the Cuban 3G network.

The average state worker's monthly salary is about $30, according to government statistics, making the new 3G unaffordable for those who don't have relatives who send them remittances from overseas or work in the island's small private sector. "But for some, like me, it's still a remote one". In October, Cuba's president Miguel Diaz-Canel began tweeting. "It will be good to be able to connect to the web with greater comfort", he said.

However the BBC says the cost of the service might be out of reach for many Cubans.

The move to improve internet access comes as Cuba's National Assembly considers revisions to the country's new draft constitution, which will be voted on in a national referendum in February.

"We already know that independent journalists and bloggers work in a legal limbo that exposes them to arbitrary detentions and we know that their work is already blocked and filtered", said Louise Tillotson, Amnesty International's researcher for the Caribbean.

The internet is mostly uncensored in Cuba, although the government blocks a small number of sites like the USA -funded Radio and Television Marti networks and others that advocate for systematic change on the island. The government permitted home internet usage in 2017, when it had also introduced cybercafes and outdoor WiFi hotspots.

That likely will be welcome news to many Cubans, who live in a country that the nonprofit rights monitor Freedom House calls "one of the world's least connected and most repressive environments for information and communication technologies".

The popularity of the Wi-Fi areas means connection can be painfully slow.

ETECSA vice president Tania Velázquez said the new service would come online in stages from Thursday through Saturday to avoid the congestion that struck the mobile network during a series of heavily criticized tests this year. Officials said it will be cheaper to access state-run websites and applications, Reuters reported.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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