Minimum Restaurant Charge to Use the Internet / 14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto
Posted on November 15, 2015
14ymedio, Sol Garcia Basulto, Camaguey, 14 November 2015 — The number of
wireless zones in the country continues to increase, as reported this
week by the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA), but little is
said about improving conditions for websurfers. In the city of Camagüey,
the web browsing service is characterized by instability and
inconvenience for users, to which is added the profit of some State
Café Ciudad modified its rules about food purchases on finding itself in
the area covered by the antennas installed in Agramonte Park. Now, the
restaurant requires a minimum food purchase of 5 Cuban convertible pesos
(equivalent to a quarter of the average monthly salary) in order to
connect to the Internet from inside. The “offering” does not include the
right to connect devices to the electrical outlets, a detail that, along
with the high prices, has annoyed patrons.
To learn the reasons that led to the adoption of these measures,
14ymedio approached Elizabeth Napoles, brigade chief of Café Ciudad. “We
had to apply this measure because it was already too much, the whole
world came and sat here,” explained the functionary, who noted that
“they ask for a coffee and they stay for hours, but this is a place to
eat, we have to generate income.”
Those who do not have the required sum to remain in the place choose to
sit on the stairs, in doorways and nearby sidewalks. “It’s awkward and
uncomfortable trying to write a message or have a videoconference with
the noise of cars and people passing by,” comments Gustavo, 33, an
engineer who frequently uses the services of the WiFi zone in Camaguey.
However, Café Ciudad does not seem willing to modify its pricing policy.
Naples justifies the decision because the place has been a victim of
certain incidents of “social indiscipline” since the opening of the WiFi
network. She says “the situation came to be very difficult; we have to
call on the police to get people to leave the tables.”
The brigade chief declared that “this doesn’t mean you have to pay five
convertible pesos to remain at the table, but this is a bonus if you eat
that much.” With this much money a customer can “drink five Cristal
beers, or four Bucaneros and a soft drink, for example,” she points out.
For Naples it is intolerable what happened before the implementation of
the new tariff, when “businessmen sat and spent the day connecting one
device to another, and they left with more than 50 CUC in their pockets
and just bought a soft drink,” she explained, referring to connection
resellers who sell shared access to a single account on the Nauta
Internet service (by creating a hotspot on their own device).
The usual Café Ciudad customers have screamed to high heaven about the
measure. “Now, if you’re having a coffee and you need to connect for a
moment, you have leave and this means you lose your table,” Wilfredo
Aróstegui Quesada told this newspaper. “Not everyone has enough money to
subscribe to this option, the price of two convertible pesos* for an
hour of connection is already high.”
The place used to be the meeting place for Camaguey celebrities and the
local artists. Rafael Hernández believes that the implementation of this
minimum service is unfair: “It seems to be that ETECSA should enable
spaces like this to offer its service free,” says the independent artist.
Café Ciudad employees wash their hands of it and say the command “came
down directly from the provincial capital’s Tourism Company.” According
to Elizabeth Naples, this policy has not solved the problem because “we
always face some customers who pretend to be playing on their cellphone”
while “staying connected, enjoying the comfort of our establishment,”
adds the official.
*Translator’s note: That is, the 5 CUC a customer must spend on food and
drink does not include a free wifi connection.
Source: Minimum Restaurant Charge to Use the Internet / 14ymedio, Sol
Garcia Basulto | Translating Cuba –