Cuba launches 1st public Wi-Fi hotspots on Havana avenue
BY ANDREA RODRIGUEZ
Cuban authorities have launched public Wi-Fi hotspots along a main
avenue that is the heart of Havana’s cultural and social life, the first
step in government promises to gradually roll out such connectivity
options on an island that the Internet revolution has largely passed by.
Authorities have been installing the boxy white routers on buildings
along 23rd Street in the Vedado theater, nightclub and business district
in recent weeks, and they apparently went live Wednesday night.
Dozens of people, many of them young, sat on stairs and stoops tapping
away at smartphones, tablets and laptops Thursday on the street known
locally as “The Ramp” for its gentle uphill slope from the sea.
Angel Padron, a 16-year-old who lives a few steps off 23rd Street,
called the signal speed “acceptable,” robust enough to load videos on
“Before I used to have to go to the hotels,” Padron said, referring to
one of the few sources of wireless in the country, and where an hour
online can cost a third of what most Cubans make in a month. “It’s like
they’ve put this in my living room, given me wings to fly around the
“I got here early and spent about 40 minutes” online, he added.
State telecom monopoly Etecsa announced in mid-June that it would open
35 such hotspots around the island.
Users need to have an account registered with Etecsa, and the service
costs $2 an hour — accessible for some Cubans who have relatively
higher-paying private-sector jobs or relatives overseas who send
remittances. But it’s still a high barrier of entry for many people who
make around $20 a month from state salaries.
Wilmer Cruz, a 31-year-old beauty salon owner, called the price “a
little expensive” but gave positive reviews.
“You can communicate with the whole world. You can know what’s going on
around the planet,” Cruz said. “It’s magnificent, just what all of Cuba
was waiting for.”
Cuba remains one of the last places in the world in Internet
Home dial-up connections are tightly restricted and generally not
available to the public. Home broadband is costly and limited to a
minuscule percentage of people, including foreigners.
Most Cubans who are able to go online do so from their schools or
workplaces, or from the hundreds of Etecsa Internet centers around the
country. Often it’s just to access email and hook into the island’s
intranet, and falls short of the worldwide web.
Authorities recently lowered prices in the Internet centers to $2 per hour.
Earlier this year a famous Cuban artist known as Kcho began offering
free Wi-Fi at his workshop in the poor western neighborhood of
Romerillo. There’s no sign that free Wi-Fi has been installed anywhere
else for the public.
Outside an artisan market on 23rd Street, Jose Antonio Leyva, a
34-year-old souvenir vendor, took selfies to send to family in the
United States, Spain and Italy.
“Online you see lots of interesting things if you know how to use it
well, and it keeps you in touch with relatives or lets you meet new
friends,” Leyva said.
Source: Cuba launches 1st public Wi-Fi hotspots on Havana avenue | Miami
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