Cuba authorizes free Internet access
By Fernando Ravsberg, BBC Mundo
September 11, 2009
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.
Universities have computer rooms and some have internet access.
Cuban authorities approved legal internet use for all citizens, given in a resolution signed by Commandante of the Revolution Ramiro Valdés, Computer Science and Communications Minister.
This resolution implies a change in government policy, which up to now had limited the net to social use, allowing access only to institutions, companies, and to a small group of little more than 100.000 people, mainly intellectuals and scientists.
For some weeks Cubans had been authorized access to “Cybercafés” in hotels, where they can connect to the internet, using the wireless system or WIFI, from their own computers or from those provided by the hotel.
However, it was in fact a measure that could change without notice. On the other hand, a ministerial resolution has legal force; it was even published in the Official Gazette of Cuba.
It is the end of the State’s information monopoly.
In post offices
Some post offices will have internet navigating rooms.
The Minister resolved “authorizing the Cuban Post Office Company, as Access to Internet Service Supplier for the Public. It will provide this service to all people inside our national territory using its internet areas.”
They will use post offices to install computers so that any Cuban can navigate the net. Up to now a similar structure existed, but it only gave access to an intranet, with websites selected by the government.
Brenda and Daimi, workers of a post office in Vedado, in Havana, confirmed to BBC World that 3 days ago they closed to create an internet room. However, it was reopened without finishing the installation.
Apparently, not all post offices will be used during the first phase, workers of the Computer Science’s Ministry to BBC Mundo workers. “One will be selected by municipality” and this service can be enlarged as necessary.
During this last decade, computer classes have been taught throughout the entire country.
With this measure, the prohibition is eliminated. But, the government continues with its proposal of “social use” of the Internet, meaning it won’t be possible to access the net from home. This is because the country doesn’t have enough bandwidth for this.
According to the Cuban authorities, the United States has prevented internet companies from negotiating a larger internet access with Cuba. What’s more, all communications are more expensive since they have to be made via satellite because Washington doesn’t allow the use of the submarine cable.
Shortly all this could change. American President, Barack Obama, authorized telecommunications companies to negotiate with Havana and next year the installation of a telephone cable between Cuba and Venezuela will be finished.
These new technological possibilities could reduce service prices, which today are extremely high. A one hour card in a hotel costs US$7 and full access from homes costs US$150 a month.
End of the monopoly
In this post office, work began but they wasn’t finished.
For decades, the Cuban government maintained an information monopoly. However, in the last years, the propagation of satellite antennas and the sale of internet accesses, both of them illegal yet increasingly extended have diminished it.
Regarding internet access, there are tens of thousands of illegal accounts, directly negotiated between server workers and clients. They cost around US $50 a month and give full access. It’s the same service legal subscribers receive.
Nobody can really know how many people have access to the net. But, it could be more than a million if we count those with authorized accounts, those with illegal ones and those who navigate – without permission – using institution accounts.
Anyway, the Cuban government maintains filters to prevent access to the most radical anti-Castro pages, while allowing access to the whole world press, including the biggest Cuban American newspaper in Miami.