Residents of Cuba are now experiencing internet for mobile phones, a step toward making one of the world's least-connected countries more connected.
It's important to note that the internet has yet to reach everyone. The service will be given to roughly 5 million customers of Cuba's telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. Journalists at state-run news organizations were given internet earlier this year as part of a bigger campaign to bring internet access to all people via Cuba's telecomunications monopoly.
“It’s been a radical change,” said Yuris Norido, 39, who reports for several state-run news websites and the television. “I can now update on the news from wherever I am, including where the news is taking place.”
No word yet as to how much the internet services will cost residents. The telecom company listed new data plans for $45 a month for 4 gigabytes of service. (For some point of comparison, unlimited plans in the United States often start around $60 a month.)
The move to put the internet in the hands of more people is also part of a larger political strategy by new President Miguel Diaz-Canel.
“We need to be able to put the content of the revolution online,” he told parliament last July as vice president. Diaz-Canel also added that Cubans could thus “counter the avalanche of pseudo-cultural, banal and vulgar content.”
Prior to 2013, most internet access in Cuba was restricted to tourist destinations and hotels on the island. Most of the technological delay can be traced back to the extensive trade embargos placed on Cuba by the US for decades.
While the changes have been welcomed by the public, there's still room for improvement. For example, the country is just starting 3G services to those residents able to access it. The sluggish changes as well as the tight government regulation and distribution of the internet leaves some Cubans curious as to how much they'll actually have access too with the web.
“I’ve been many times to the ETECSA shop to ask if they can give us home access,” said Yuneisy Galindo, 28, at a Wi-Fi hotspot on one of Havana’s thoroughfares in an interview with Reuters. “But they tell us they still aren’t ready and will call us.”
Like in the United States, most of the mobile devices owned by people are smart phones. However, the rest of the world is ready for 5G, while Cuba is barely implementing 3G.
“This rollout will expand slowly at first and then more quickly, if the government is increasingly confident that it can control any political fallout,” said Cuba expert Ted Henken at Baruch College in the United States.