Cuban Telecommunications and its Problems
April 24, 2014
HAVANA TIMES — Communications have always been a problem in Cuba, and
telephone services have been the biggest of the lot. There aren’t enough
land and cell phone lines and existing services are inadequate. I won’t
go into the causes or name those responsible (we all know who is to blame).
ETECSA is the only telecommunications company on the island. According
to the government, it was created in response to the need to unify all
communications companies in the country.
Previously, there were 14 communications firms responsible for
telephone, radio, postal and press services, as well as other domestic
entities specializing in related services. The latter included the
Empresa de Proyectos, Construccion y Montaje (“Projects, Construction
and Assembly Company”), Cable Coaxial (“Coaxial Cable”), EMTELCUBA and
Larga Distancia (“Long Distance”).
The organizational and financial problems that all economic sectors were
facing in the 1990s were also being felt in the telephone services
industry. The sector was one of the first to open up to foreign
investment, as part of the new market-oriented economic strategies
traced by the government in response to the Special Period crisis.
The decision was to create a company that would offer all of the
country’s telecommunication services and reinvigorate the industry. The
establishment of ETECSA was approved in 1993 and, in 1994, the company
was officially authorized to offer and market public telecommunications
While it is true the company never managed to satisfy all of the needs
of the population, it is undeniable that this vital service saw much
improvement following this.
In December of 2003, on the basis of Agreement 4,996 of the Executive
Committee of Cuba’s Council of Ministers and of Decree Law 275, ETECSA
was expanded as telecommunications operator through the merger of
Cubacel and C_COM. This was done with a view to bringing all landline,
mobile phone and other telecommunication services under the management
of a single joint venture company.
When they announced the introduction of mobile phones in Cuba, many
naive souls thought we were starting to walk in step with the world.
Nothing was further from the truth. For the longest time, the cost of
mobile services were prohibitive for the vast majority. Though rates
have gone down over the years and other services have improved, as the
saying goes, “when it’s not one thing, it’s the other.”
On February 4, 2011, Cuba’s Official Gazette announced the island had
secured 100 percent of the company’s shares and had become ETECSA’s sole
owner for the first time since 1993. Needless to say, nothing has
improved much since.
We don’t know – and no one is explaining – what kind of problems cell
phone lines are experiencing here in Santiago de Cuba. The fact is that,
for more than a week now, it’s been impossible to contact anyone over
one’s cell phone. “We’re sorry. The phone you are dialing is turned off
or outside the coverage area” – this is the recording we all hear when
we try to call our relatives, colleagues or friends.
To be sure, we’ve done some tests, calling people who are standing a few
steps away from us – and we always get the same recording.
I believe ETECSA must go back to being what it was: a company in the
hands of foreign capital or foreign capitalists. Or we must again have
more than one communications company, to see if things improve some.
Source: Cuban Telecommunications and its Problems – Havana Times.org –