A Sunday with Bad Wi-Fi in Havana

Luis Rondon Paz

People at one of the Wi-Fi points on La Rampa.
People at one of the Wi-Fi points on La Rampa.

HAVANA TIMES — Last Sunday I futilely struggled to send 300 MB from a Wi-Fi point in Havana where supposedly the connection is at 1MB/second, which would make the upload fast, but that was not the case.

In the process I felt I was connecting through one of our dial-up connections to those networks that do not surpass 2KB/sec on their upload or download speed.

I tried to get close to all the wireless antennas on the Rampa in Vedado to see which offered me better speed. As I feared it was all one big waste of my time. Near each of the antennas I could connect pretty fast to the Nauta network, but once inside the system the speed to upload or download files, videos, etc. was terrible.

I thought of calling the communications company complaint number, 118, but I knew that was only going to be wasting more time. I decided to switch my computer off the network.

An hour later, hoping to solve my problem, I walked to the ETECSA navigation room located in the nearby multi-service FOCSA building.

Who’s last in line? I asked a group of 20 people whose dour expressions, made me think they had been waiting a long time for the office to open.

It was already 8:40 am and finally I entered the navigation room.

Why is the internet is so slow? I asked one of the employees.

In a very friendly way she suggested I close the session and try again in five minutes so they had time to reset the unit where all computers are connected.

Outside one of the buildings of the Miramar Trade Center
Outside the ETECSA telecommunications company office at the Miramar Trade Center.

Why is the equipment in Cuba that provides connectivity so inefficient, I thought of asking the nice young woman, but I decided to be patient and wait five minutes to try again to connect to the Internet.

In the end I couldn’t do anything. The connection was the same or worse than before, so I closed my session and I left in search for somewhere else with better speed.

I caught a collective taxi to the Miramar Trade Center with the hope that there I could upload my materials.

There I spent three hours online and could barely upload 80 MB.

An interesting detail.

The next day I went to the business office of the Habana Libre Hotel and paid 10 CUC (11.50 USD) for two hours of their in-house Wi-Fi connection. And to my surprise, I could upload all the materials (almost two gigabytes) in less than an hour.

Luis Rondón

Luis Rondon Paz: Activist, Queer, computer scientist, actor, photographer, student and apprentice journalist. Originally from Santiago de Cuba. I believe that people are life projects in constant transformation. I am consistent and responsible for my actions, committed to just causes and a lover of good deeds. Today I write about Cuba in exile, free of psychological torture and persecution of the Cuban dictatorship.

6 thoughts on “A Sunday with Bad Wi-Fi in Havana

  • You are almost right. If a non-US ompany decides to do business with Cuba, the US has NO authority to prohibit that transaction. However that same company forfeits the privilege of access to the US market. It is our sovereign right to do business with whom we choose. Cuba’s options are indeed limited but the Castros are to blame for that, not the US.

  • The US is very predatory about anyone who trades with Cuba. They refuse entry for ships that have docked in Cuba, they seize assets from companies that have done business with Cuba, they even seize bank accounts in other sovereign nations.

    Cuba’s options are extremely limited, and very expensive compared to what just about any other country is able to do.

  • It takes a lot of hardware infrastructure to provide the broad-band quality Internet you see in large US and European cities and you don’t see the same access and speeds in smaller US towns. The companies like Netflix and Amazon that produce streaming video are constantly in court and fighting network provider cutoffs of programs that use a lot of bandwidth that the networks have to provide. Because one company has to provide the bandwidth to satisfy another company’s desire to sell more and more content. In these instances, it has nothing to do with political ideology it has to do with technology infrastructure. I suspect that in Cuba it is also a question of the best use of limited Internet access at the national level and that access is limited in part by the embargo and other financial factors and probably has a lot to do with decision on what is the best use or allocation of that bandwidth. Schools, hospitals, weather surveillance, the environmental science work done with other countries and their universities might simply be considered more important than a private business uploading 300 Meg files or personal entertainment demands to surf the World Wide Web and shop or watch cats walk across piano keyboards on YouTube. It is the same anyplace that has limitations on anything and the private sector has to fund its own needs and sometimes that means fund it from end-to-end. In the USA we call it the digital divide between wealthy people and people who are not so wealthy. Governments that don’t want their citizens to have access to something don’t make it expensive, they make it illegal and they turn off the electrical power to whole towns and then raid the homes to find VHS tapes stuck in the players and then take people away. Ask anyone from North Korea what happens and they will confirm that it has an entirely different look than what you see in Cuba with slow Internet.

  • Not true Brrr. Cuba can trade with any country in the world that will trade with them. They have always traded with their neighbors, including Mexico and Brazil, the two largest economies in the region. Russia and China are also longstanding trading partners. You may choose to blame the embargo for Cuba’s problems because of a strong pro-Castro sentiment or an equally strong anti-US mindset or perhaps both! But practically speaking, it is political ideology, not economics that has retarded Cuba’s technology. Cuba has received numerous friendly offers from foreign vendors to build out their internet infrastructure at little or no cost to the regime.They turned them down. You can’t blame this on the embargo.

  • The answer is they can’t afford to because the embargo has crippled their ability to have any meaningful international trade.

  • During my last visit to Cuba, I paid 10 cuc in the Hotel Inglaterra for 1 hour of WiFi access for my laptop. It was sooooo slow that I commented to the young lady who sold me the access code. Obviously, after listening to tourists complain all day long about a service most Cubans don’t even have access to, she let me have it. She blamed it on “my embargo”. I was already frustrated and I should not have complained to her in the first place, but I could not let her get away with such a stupid response. I asked her if she believed that Russia has high-speed Internet technology. Proudly, she said “of course!”. I asked her if she thought Putin was afraid of Obama. “Para nada” she replied. So then I asked her why Cuba doesn’t just buy the technology from Russia? After all, they have to buy it anyway from somebody. Why not buy the good stuff? Not surprisingly, she had no answer.

Comments are closed.