Cuba to allow internet access at home for the first time

20 Dec 2016

Cuban flag. Image: Andrey Armyagov/Shutterstock

As part of a gradual effort to offer its citizens greater access to the internet, Cuba is now starting to trial a new scheme that will give people online access in their homes for the first time.

Since tensions between the US and Cuba have thawed in the past year or so – and also following the death of the country’s icon Fidel Castro – the people of the largest Caribbean state are gradually getting access to a new technology: the internet.

During a recent visit to Cuba by Google’s Eric Schmidt, the tech figurehead described the country’s internet as being “stuck in the 1990s” due to the government’s strict censorship laws and lack of online access.

For years – despite the numbers of mobile phones increasing – getting online required a Cuban to travel to one of a small number of designated Wi-Fi hotspots that were prohibitively expensive, sometimes being a significant proportion of the average monthly salary.

Now however, in an apparent opening up of the country to the wider world, Cuba’s state telecoms company ETECSA has announced that it will begin a limited trial to allow 2,000 Cubans to access the internet from their own homes.

According to the BBC, the first hubs will be installed in the Old Havana area of the country’s capital and will last for a period of two months.

Less than one-third of population online

After this period, the government will then decide whether or not to open up internet access to the rest of the country.

ETECSA has also announced that the existing Wi-Fi hotspots will become cheaper by 25pc to ease the financial burden it places on the average Cuban.

Earlier this month, ETECSA revealed that it had signed a deal with Google to allow the company to install servers in the country to make access to its services – like Google and YouTube – much faster than before.

Recent estimates suggest that just 32.4pc of the country’s 11.4m people have access to the internet, having risen by 4pc on the previous year.

This marks a considerable increase since the beginning of the 21st century, when it was estimated that just over 60,000 people – or 0.5pc of the population – could get online.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic