Wi-Fi in Cuba: A Family Business

Nonardo Perea

A pay-for Wi-Fi hotspot in Havana.
A pay-for Wi-Fi hotspot in Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — I arrived at the Wi-Fi hotspot at the Marianao amphitheater at around five in the afternoon. Immediately, a sixtyish woman approached me to offer me connection time for 1 CUC.

Interested in paying a bit less to connect for only one hour, I let her lead me to where her son was. With a laptop, the latter was letting five different people use his account. No sooner was I standing next to the young man than an individual arrived and reproached the elderly woman for hogging everyone in the area. They argued, half-jokingly. Apparently, they knew each other from doing business in the park. They made it clear that everyone has their own way of doing this and that the most skillful walk away with the biggest profits.

In addition to advertising the 1 CUC connection offer, the elderly woman also sold pre-paid navigation cards at 3 CUC.

It was quite the deal for them, though not exactly that for users, because, with several people connected at once, Internet navigation became slow at times and the connection was lost at others, upsetting more than one of the people there.

There are currently many people involved in this rather easy business, and, while money changes hands, people don’t get much out of it, as an hour is barely enough to check one’s email. I couldn’t even reply to a message, much less upload or download a photo. The connection speed made all this complicated and the hour slipped through my fingers.

Many say that these Wi-Fi hotspots are a kind of experiment. I wonder how long this abomination created by the government will last, because, the truth of the matter is that this experiment is producing a lot of revenue for ETECSA [the State telecommunications monopoly], which maintains small spaces for service to the population, the poor of the earth that have to be satisfied with the crumbs from promises too old to have credibility.

Nonardo Perea

Nonardo Perea: I see myself as an observant person and I like to write with sincerity what I think and live first hand. I’m shy and of few words; thus it’s difficult for me to engage in conversation. For that reason, my best tool for communicating is writing. I live in Marianao, Havana and am 40 years old.

4 thoughts on “Wi-Fi in Cuba: A Family Business

  • March 11, 2016 at 10:21 pm

    Are you really that daft? According to Dictionary.com
    Blockade 1.the isolating, closing off, or surrounding of a place, as a port, harbor, or city, by hostile ships or troops to prevent entrance or exit.
    2.any obstruction of passage or proogress

    Neither of these definitions describes the actions being taken by the US against the Castro dictatorship.

  • March 11, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    It is a Blockade. Read the definitions and you shall see it is a Blockade

  • March 11, 2016 at 2:38 am

    Sebastien, while I would like to think that your comment is well-intended, it reflects how misinformed you are. The embargo (there is no blockade) exempts the equipment needed to expand WiFi in Cuba. Moreover, Google, Netflix, and a number of European companies have offered the Castros free service. To date all offers have been rejected. Finally, China has never been restricted in selling anything to Cuba. Their WiFi technology is cutting edge. The only reason Cuba remains the worst country in the hemisphere in terms of Internet penetration is because the Castros don’t want an Arab Spring during the last days of their rule.

  • March 10, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    You are right about the fact that this is a lot of revenues for the Etecsa, but on the other hand it is an easy way to set up quickly a widespread availability of the Internet for Cubans.

    Setting up a network with fiber/dsl or cable requires a lot of infrastructure and devices that are probably difficult to get because of the blocus. I think that these wifi is a transition to something better that will put Internet availability quickly (even if expensive).

    Regarding the quality, I used the Wifi in january in Holguin, Las Tunas, Manzanillo, Santiago, Guantanamo and Baracoa and it worked surprisingly well. Way better than the old computer at the Etecsa!

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