By Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES – For many years, enemies of the Cuban Revolution (including the US government) have been shouting from the rooftops that Cuba didn’t have the Internet because the Cuban government was afraid ideas would freely circulate and because there was no freedom of speech on the island. However, reality was quite different.
Flaunting their double standards, they said they defended the Cuban people’s right to Internet access, yet they stopped Cuba from being able to connect to any fiber-optic cables passing nearby the island.
Cuba’s first steps towards Internet connectivity were via satellite, which was very expensive and provided low-speed access, which meant that only priority entities, such as tourism centers, universities and government offices, were able to connect.
Cuba’s state telecommunications company ETECSA, started to respond to the population’s interest in using cellphones, even though the country was suffering economic hardship as a result of the strict economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the US, over the past 60 years.
Over time, they were able to buy the expensive equipment needed, and in December 2019, six million Cubans had cellphones, meaning that over half of the population were enjoying this service. And this number continues to grow, which is an important step in the informatization process of Cuban society, which is a government priority right now.
Some 3.7 million customers have Internet access on their cellphones, although because these devices are so expensive, the service in itself is also quite expensive, but the company assures us that it will gradually drop prices and prices have, in fact, dropped to less than half the initial price of the service.
Installing the Internet in Cuban homes is another important step that ETECSA has taken, which is slowly being implemented as long as technical issues allow them to. However, the US blockade is stopping Cuba from having access to the advanced technology other countries have. Nevertheless, the country is slowly getting the technology it needs, although it is very expensive for an underdeveloped country which is also under siege.
Today, Cuban universities and health and science professionals all have access to the Internet. The country also has 2,500 websites up and running, 135 of which are media platforms.
In 2014, Cuba’s telecommunications company began to set up public pay-for WIFI hotspots and already has nearly 800 across the country, and it is expected that 50% of Cuban homes have broadband Internet access by the end of 2020. By late 2019, Cuba had almost seven million Internet users, which represented 57% of the population. However, due to US censorship, many websites are inaccessible from Cuba, and when we ask for a response the answer is that it is unavailable for our country.
First, they accuse the Cuban government of not giving the population Internet access, while they have stopped us from accessing technology and cable communication, and then when Cuba finally finds a way of getting this technology to give Cuban citizens’ access (as much as we are able to given the blockade), then they block our access to countless websites.
Cuba’s telecommunications company has recently announced that new mobile data package offers will be implemented, promoting 4G, as well as new ways to bring Internet access to Cuban homes with wireless networks and with different fiber-optic solutions. The Internet is another victim in Cuba of the US blockade, but it is also gaining ground.