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Broadband internet coming to Cuba

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This year Cuba’s state telecom firm ETECSA is to run a pilot project to extend Wi-Fi network access to private homes and small businesses via broadband internet fiber optic cable, a company organization official reported on Monday.

Odalys Rodriguez, executive of ETECSA’s Havana Division stated the broadband internet project will give access to homes and organizations in two neighborhoods in Havana. At the current time, Wi-Fi is only available at a few city parks and open spaces in Havana, although foreigners have internet access at hotels.

Cuban News Agency (ACN) reports that Wi-Fi will be supplied through fiber optic links, by the Chinese organization Huawei which has already signed a telecommunications agreement with Cuba.

Another 30 new open Wi-Fi hotspots will be added to the current 17 in Havana, as a component of the government’s plan to increasing internet access throughout the country, Rodriguez stated. Another nearly 60 cell towers in Havana will be repaired and another 69 stations introduced.

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One of the reasons that Cubans have restricted access to the web is the continuing problem of the US embargo.   The country was isolated from connecting to the undersea fiber optic cables that run around the island. In 2012, Venezuela connected to the island by an undersea fiber optic cable. Since that time Cuba has slowly enhanced web access throughout the island.

Since 2013, there has been an increased internet cafes and wifi hotspots and email accounts have became available on mobile telephones.

In 2014 ETECSA started offering Wi-Fi in broad daylight parks and courts creating a total of 58 wifi zones throughout Cuba. However, the 2 CUCs per hour price is out of the range for most Cubans with an average salary of 20 CUCs per month.

Today 150,000 Cubans have daily access to the web by public wifi, however very few homes have internet access. In 2013 the United Nations International Telecommunication Union (ITU), reported that only 3.4 percent of Cuban families had at home Internet access. Home internet access has been limited to government authorities, doctors, journalists and foreigners with residence in Cuba.

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Increased internet expansion is largely in part due to the improvement of relations between Cuba and the US and the relaxation of trade restrictions. In February 2014, ETECSA and the New Jersey corporations IDT signed a deal to allow direct telephone connection between the US and Cuba. Direct telephone access which had not existed for more than half a century.

About a week ago, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Sepulveda led a delegation to Cuba to discuss telecommunications and the current limitations of internet access in the country with Cuban authorities.

The fiber optic to be developed by Huawei is very good news for Cuban citizens and business interests. In today’s world, it is impossible to operate and market a business without the best available technology and high quality, fast internet access. Many Cuban start-up companies are hindered by lack of connectivity.

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