Cuba Launches Free, Limited Public Wi-Fi

Cuba has recently launched the country’s first free public internet service. Located at the Havana cultural center, a free open Wi-Fi hotspot has been introduced to be used by all those who visit the center. Run by the famed contemporary Cuban artist Kcho, the state-owned telecom services provider Etecsa loosened Internet access in an attempt to slowly loosen the country’s strict regulation. Kcho introduced the Wi-Fi hot spot to inspire Cubans to connect and acquaint themselves with the Internet. At a speed of 2 mbps, the Wi-Fi comes directly from Kcho’s personal Internet connection. In a country where the average salary is $20 a month, the ADSL service is very pricey as it is estimated to amount to $900 a month. The undersea fiber optic cable from Venezuela allowed for Cuba to greatly increase their Internet capability in January 2013.

However, Cuba’s connectivity rates is one of the lowest in the world as dial-up accounts are extremely restricted and at-home broadband is almost nonexistent. At 2 mbps, Cuba’s internet connectivity is extremely low compared to the 10.5 mbps in the United States and 23.6 mbps in South Korea. In addition, there currently exists over 100 government-run computer cafes in Cuba with an average hourly cost of $4.50. The government prioritizes the bandwidth use and allocates most of it towards schools and workplaces. Large internet-based companies have started to take notice of Internet being introduced to Cuba. Last summer, Google sent executives to the island to promote free and open Internet to the country. Although they did not succeed, Google recently launched their Chrome browser in Cuba. Another company, Netflix, also took notice as they released their video streaming service to Cuba. Their service includes popular movies and TV shows and is targeted to those who have internet connection and international payment methods.

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