WiFi in Havana?

Dmitri Prieto

Poster offering WiFi services.

HAVANA TIMES — What is this sign really saying? The picture was taken at the entrance to the art gallery located in Havana’s Yara movie theater. Is the ad actually offering a service, or is it an artistic performance?

Some years ago, during the Romerias de Mayo theater festival in Holguin, a group of performance artists filled the city with ads announcing a casting for a Brazilian soap opera. Hundreds of young and not-so-young would-be actors from Holguin attended the casting and some were ultimately “selected” by a demanding jury that appeared to speak Portuguese. It is said that, as the festival drew to a close, the performers had to flee from stone-hurling crowds of young and not-so-young actors in Holguin, whose “low cultural level” had not allowed them to appreciate the “performance.”

WiFi in Havana?

This service, already widely-available in other cities around the world, is offered in the Cuban capital only at hotels (where it is quite expensive) and some official entities. I recall how young people used to sit with their laptops in front of the Faculty of Communication of the University of Havana, in the middle of G street, but I haven’t seen them there for quite some time.

While visiting someone at the Oncology Hospital, I met a very smart and well-spoken young professional who told me an informal and self-managed WiFi network was operating in Havana.

That was nearly two years ago. The network was being operated at several of the capital’s well-to-do neighborhoods, and its administrators urged its users not to exchange political or pornographic materials. People were using it to exchange software, games, videos, movies and music and to play on-line games.

I don’t know what became of that autonomous “fraternal” service. In 1990s Russia, a number of similar social undertakings proved the embryos of current Internet providers, companies that have long secured their slice of the market in the country.

Cuba could well avail itself of such community initiatives. The issue of Internet access, however, has been politicized too much and is burdened by pending bureaucratic decisions and the inefficiency of State monopolies.

As Yaima Pardo expressed in her documentary, we continue to be, in great measure, an off-line country.
So, I wonder: what is this sign really saying?

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

11 thoughts on “WiFi in Havana?

  • November 11, 2014 at 8:30 am

    That will be an interesting step. Will the Cuban government try to jam the signal? Or will they shoot it down like they did the two Brothers to the Rescue planes? No doubt, the Castro Regime will label the internet balloon a “terrorist zeppelin”.

  • November 9, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    When the Ruler dreams of building the perfect Utopian society, which by definition has one official ideology, only a depraved criminal would oppose it. Therefore, the State is justified to take the most extreme measures to enforce the One True Ideology and make their Utopia a reality.

  • November 8, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    I have yet to read or hear a cogent defense of why Socialist governments fear free speech. All governments, at one time or another, would like to suppress points of view which disagree with the government in power. The only difference is that the Castros and their ilk can do so legally.

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