Cubans Love Their Phones, But Technology Lags
By Sandy Fitzgerald | Mon Jul 11, 2011 5:16 pm
Over a million cell phones have been sold in Cuba since the government
lifted bans in 2008, and while the expense is more than most citizens
can afford, new inroads may make them cheaper and more useful.
In February, a fiber optic cable was laid stretching from Venezuela to
Cuba, which will expand Cuba's Internet and telephone capabilities.
Until that point, Cuba's telecom industry remained far behind that of
more developed countries.
Only about 20 percent of Cubans have land lines, let alone cell phone
service, and there is no broadband service.
Cuba has blamed the U.S. and its ongoing embargo on Cuba for its
connection woes, justifying its control over how citizens connect with
each other with the rest of the world, much as communist-controlled
North Korea has done in recent months.
Cuba has a dual-Internet structure, which hosts one network for citizens
and another for government officials and tourists. That means while
Cubans are able to get online, albeit slowly, the government controls
what they see.
North Korea is also testing a dual-network approach, which will allow
Internet use, but on a controlled basis. The citizens in both countries
want the devices and access, but their governments are wary and
Iran also plans to use the dual-network approach, when it closes off its
open Internet in favor of a more controlled system in two years.
In addition to economic difficulties, nations such as Cuba or North
Korea restrict their communications services control the media and
information that the population comes into contact with. Neither
country's government would want a repeat of the way cell phones, social
media, and the Internet were used to help spur protests in Libya and
Egypt, which were fueled this spring in part by mobile communications.