Like most countries, Cuba started getting involved in the Internet during the 1990s. However, state phone company ETECSA has only recently begun to introduce an increased number of WiFi and broadband connections. Roughly 15 percent of the island’s citizens currently have some form of access. Most residents and tourists use the Web by visiting and using hotel WiFi, internet cafes or wireless hotspots.
In 2015, Cuba installed 65 Wifi hotspots in various parts of the country. Another 80 more are planned for 2016. Many Cubans browse the Web on smartphones when they visit these WiFi access points. To use the service, people need to set up Internet accounts and pay $2 per hour.
Internet cafes and hotel Web access have been available for some time in Cuba. Some of these establishments provide desktop PCs. This service usually costs about $4 to $6 per hour. ETECSA recently announced it will start offering high-speed connections to restaurants and bars in Havana.
Fewer than one out of 20 Cubans can browse the Internet with computers in their homes. Some people use dial-up connections that rely on existing landline wiring and do not require up-to-date equipment. Many websites load slowly, but this system works well for email and text-based material. Faster access may soon be available in the capital.
A major broadband project in Havana was launched by ETECSA late last year. It will bring swift fiber-optic connections to homes in some neighborhoods of Havana. The Chinese telecommunications company Huawei is helping ETECSA establish this service. Although specific speeds have yet to be announced, fiber optics usually deliver faster downloads than cable, DSL or satellite systems.
Reuters recently reported that Google has opened a high speed internet technology center equipped 20 Chrome books and other devices at the studio of Cuban artist Alexis ‘K’cho’ Leyva. It’s open five days a week til midnight and there’s room capacity for up 40 people at a time. This is the first of centers of this kind in Cuba. There should be more coming to Cuba in the not too distant future.