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Cuba Trialling Public Wi-Fi

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stock-photo-wi-fi-zone-sign-on-the-asphalt-street-201243407Cuba has long been known for having one of the world’s lowest rates of household Internet access, reported by the International Telecommunications Union to be only 3.4% in 2014.  Internet access is tightly controlled in Cuba, with only government officials and select journalists, doctors, and athletes typically allowed to have Internet access at home.

The rest of the population has had to seek approval from the Ministry of Communications to have Internet in their homes. Some public access portals exist, but they charge a pricey hourly rate, making it unrealistic for most Cubans.

However, in a move that might signal a change of the times in the communist country, public Wi-Fi is being tested. This will allow members of the general public to access the Internet on their phones, tablets, and laptops, albeit at a costly rate. One hour of access is expected to cost US$4.50, which is not cheap, considering the average Cuban makes less than US$20 per month. If users want email only, the cost will be US$1.50.

The trial of the Wi-Fi plans will be conducted in Cuba’s second largest city, Santiago de Cuba, where the state run telecommunications company Etecsa, will provide it on a limited basis.

In an age where Internet access is considered a right, it’s difficult for many to understand how Cuba has sustained such a regime. The more technologically inclined younger generation of Cubans have found ways to tap into the Internet access that hotels and government departments have to satisfy their appetite for information.

The announcement of the Wi-Fi testing plan is certainly a welcome one, both in Cuba and the rest of the world. Until the trial is complete, many experts and commentators wait with baited breath to see how it pans out for Cuba.

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