How easy is it to send an email in Cuba?
BY LARISA EPATKO November 2, 2015 at 3:35 PM EST
It’s getting a little easier to send an email in Cuba these days. Over
the past few months, about 35 new WiFi hotspots have opened in parks,
plazas and schools.
People can go to these public spots with their laptops and cellphones,
and pay $2 per hour to access the Internet. The price went down from
$4.50 an hour, but $2 — about 10 percent of the average Cuban’s monthly
income — still makes it prohibitively expensive for many, said Raul
Moas, executive director of Roots of Hope, a Miami-based nonprofit
working to increase Cubans’ access to technology.
But for Cubans who can pay, it’s a welcome development since the
relaxing of U.S.-Cuban ties. Family and friends living outside Cuba had
been telling them about the Internet’s usefulness for years, said Moas,
causing Cubans — particularly the younger generation — to clamor for this.
The Internet is relatively new for many Cubans. The communist nation is
ranked 147, one of the lowest in the world, for Internet accessibility,
according to the World Bank. By comparison, the United States is ranked
Although the Cuban government probably won’t stop censoring the Internet
any time soon, it is realizing the Internet is a force for revitalizing
a semi-flat-lined economy, said Moas. “They’re looking at how the
Internet is being used in (other communist nations) Vietnam and China to
see how it’s an economic driver.”
Havana is learning that in order to attract foreign investment, it needs
to be more tied-in globally, and Internet connectivity is a large part,
he said. “How can companies (either foreign or homegrown) set up shop in
Cuba without high-speed Internet?” he added.
The government also is finding that it can charge $2 an hour, and the
Cuban diaspora will pay it, much as it does for pre-paid cellphone
service plans for family members inside the island nation, Moas said.
One of the ways Cubans inside and outside the country are making use of
the new connectivity is with a free video chat and call service, called
“imo,” which functions like Skype. “Families literally have not seen
each other for many years are now starting to see each other via video
chat and there’s a whole flow of emotions,” he said.
Even at 3 a.m., you’ll see the glow of device screens at the hotspots,
said Moas. While the new access is a “very positive step,” the test is
how quickly the government will lower costs and create even more
hotspots, he added. “In a country of 11 million people, 35 hotspots
won’t meet the demand.”
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