HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government announced today that it will expand public Internet access on the island thanks to the fiber optic submarine cable laid from Venezuela, they say has been operational since August 2012.
The authorities said they will open 118 cybercafes across the country starting on June 4, reported dpa news on Tuesday. The cafes will be mainly in the major cities of the country, including 12 in the capital.
The expansion of services is possible due to the “already functioning fiber optic cable between Cuba and Venezuela,” said Juventud Rebelde newspaper.
Cuban officials reported in late January for the first time on the activation of the fiber optic cable laid from Venezuela, one of the most anticipated and controversial infrastructure projects in recent years on the island.
The project, initiated with the cooperation of the Venezuela of Hugo Chavez, should improve the very poor internet access on the island, one of the worst in the world. Until recently, the connection was made only via satellite.
The laying of the submarine cable from Venezuela, which also goes from Cuba to Jamaica, originally was to be ready in July 2011.
The new deal announced today reduced prices of public network access. These, however, remain high compared to international standards, and exorbitant for the average salaried Cuban.
Internet browsing will be charged at 4.5 CUC (5 usd) per hour. The rates are cheaper ($ 0.60 per hour) for Intranet access to the Cuban internal only web.
Before the change, Internet access is charged at an average of $8 CUC (8.80 usd) an hour especially in hotels in the tourism sector. Monthly wages in the state sector of the island average $20.
Issues that remain to be clarified are the quality and speed of the connections to be offered. Another matter is when home connections will become available for Cubans. Currently only foreign residents and a limited number of government approved individuals can get a slow dial up connection.