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Cuba Legalizes Private Wi-Fi and Router Imports

Cuba has legalized private Wi-Fi networks via licensing and the importation of routers into the country.

Cuba has legalized private Wi-Fi networks and the importation of routers into the country. The many Cubans who had been running illegal data networks from their homes can now apply for a license. In the past, Cuba has ranked as one of the least-connected places in the world, a status which is rapidly changing as the country gains inter-connectivity.

On Wednesday, Cuba’s Ministry of Communications (Mincom) announced new regulations to allow wired or wireless private networks for the transfer of data and the legal importation of network equipment such as routers and servers from outside the country.

By the end of July, people will be able legally to go online with their own computers and phones and share signals with others. Etecsa, the telecom giant in Cuba remains the only internet provider on the Island.

Mincom said the changes would, “Contribute to the computerization of society, the well-being of citizens, the sovereignty of the country and the prevention against the harmful effects of non-ionizing radiation.”

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The changes could lead eventually to the growth of first privately run internet cafes. Internet cafes, though rare, first opened in 2013, and public Wi-Fi hotspots were established 2014,  but the cost of being connected is still very high in a place where monthly wages average about 20 – 30 CUCs.

The Mincom announcement made via Cuban media on Wednesday is the latest in a series of measures taken over the last five years to extend internet to everyone on the Island.

Internet was first permitted on 3G for cell phones only very recently, and in people’s homes last year. This led to individuals setting up equipment and local networks to bring in the internet despite the fact it had been illegal.

The new measures effectively legalize the networks. People now have two months to obtain a license to regularize their setups.

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Operating licenses for private, external data networks will be granted to individuals within a range of limited Mhz frequencies.

People who desire to set up a private network in their own homes will not need a license.

Mincom will soon release an approved list of equipment that can be imported to Cuba. The equipment will also be subject to a Mincom import license and an importation fee. Approved devices will be available for sale throughout the state retail network of stores, Mincom said.

The move to allow private Wifi in homes or through providers as a service is in line with government ambitions to bring internet to all people by 2020.

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In 2015, Mincom’s IT director Ernesto Rodriguez said, “The Cuban government is working to ensure that the IT resources and Internet are available and accessible to all Cubans in five years.” Looks like it’s an achievable goal.

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