Cuba Keeps Private Internet on Hold

Wilfredo González, vice minister of communications. Photo: M. H. Lagarde/

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban authorities ruled out today widespread Internet access to homes on the island, despite the expansion of public infrastructure, reported dpa news.

“It is foreseen that [someday] Cubans may have a connection at home, but the initial priority under the current circumstances, is for public access,” at government cybercafés, said Cuban Vice Minister of Communications, Wilfredo Gonzalez Vidal, in an interview published today in the official Granma newspaper.

The aim is “to reach a greater number of people with the least investment,” he said.

The Cuban authorities announced Tuesday the opening of 118 cybercafés across the country, thanks to the fiber optic submarine cable laid from Venezuela.

Gonzalez ruled out that the restrictions on home connections are politically motivated, as people opposing the government contend. “We reiterate that there are no other limitations than the technological and financial ones,” he said.

The island does not allow private access to the network to its citizens. Only public institutions, foreign companies and some journalists, officials and artists can have a connection at home.

Opponents like blogger Yoani Sanchez accuse the government of Raul Castro of fearing the free flow of information on the net. Sanchez, who became known for her criticism of the Castro regime in her blog Generation Y, says she connects to the Internet at the exorbitant prices (around US $9.00 per hour) at Havana hotels.
Besides the opening of 118 cafes nationwide (12 in the capital), Cuban authorities announced Tuesday a substantial improvement in the infrastructure on the island.

This is due to the entry into operation of the fiber optic cable laid from Venezuela, one of the most anticipated and controversial projects in recent years.

The cable, a project in cooperation with Venezuela’s 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 through satellite.

The laying of the submarine cable from Venezuela, which also extends from Cuba to Jamaica, originally was to be ready in July 2011. Raul Castro’s government, however, was silent on the project until January of this year.

“The submarine fiber optic cable is already providing services,” Gonzalez confirmed today.

The new offering of the cafes, in addition to about 200 facilities already available in hotels in the tourism sector, reduced the price to US $5.00 per hour of Internet access. This, however, remains high compared to international standards and exorbitant for Cubans who have an average US $20 per month salary.

The high priced Internet at the public facilities favors Cubans who receive remittances especially from the USA and others who have some way to earn hard currency instead of the devalued regular Cuban peso.
Also see: Cuba Extends Expensive Internet Access

13 thoughts on “Cuba Keeps Private Internet on Hold

  • June 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Lets settle this once and for all.

    Graham posted in this thread:
    “As part of the foreign exchange class in Cuba I´m using it right now. Really freaking fast. Definitly fiber optic. But I can´t open files I typed before hand and things like FireFox mobile won´t work. So I´m limited to what I can do in 1 hour (i.e. typing emails while the clock ticks) Plus this keyboard really sucks, terrible.”

    So: all over the country access to fiber optics in this new system of internet cafés.
    In all of them restrictions of all kind: from ID checks to USB blockage.

    For the equivalent of 22 hours ( 100 dollars) of internet access in Cuba via the state system you can have one month of 12mbps down and 3mbps upload with a limit of 15Gb in peak time and free downloads in down time.
    The regime doesn’t allow these satellites.
    Allowing them would have solved any and all access problems.

  • June 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    No dedicated lines needed. ADSL works with standard lines.
    Fiber optics: the point is that only selected people have access.

  • June 3, 2013 at 11:25 am

    Only for dedicated lines. Those are new lines they go thorough a different network, not regular telephonic lines. For those, the best they offer is 256 kb/s (32 Kb/s equivalent) and at ridiculous price, and I think they are just increasing the number of lines instead of using the upper bands (that would explain why they only offer those slow speeds and why is so expensive).

    My point regarding the optical fiber is that not all of them are the same. A 45 mb/s fiber simply can’t handle the massive increment of data you would get by increasing the service subscribers by a decent amount (and we are talking of more than 10 times increment here).

    Just to put things in perspective, I don’t have a particularly fast connection at home and I get 28 mb/s on cable. That for a single person. Even if we are optimistic and they got a 2 Gb/s fiber cable for they backbone (that would mean that they deployed the technology first than US, which is extremely unlikely), that means they can handle a maximum of 1000 customers at 2 Mb/s. Or 4000 customers at 256 kb/s.

    In other words, thats not enough to provide broadband services nationwide at a significant scale.

  • June 2, 2013 at 2:38 am

    Speeds of up to 2Mbps are available. The pricing is indeed “ridiculous” and is part of the control strategy of the regime.
    The rest of what I posted is very relevant as it shows that the fiber network exists and is only available to selected politically correct. It also confirms that Cuba has thousands of miles of fiber network that make up a very high speed access to the net.

  • May 31, 2013 at 4:11 pm

    From your link:

    “ADSL Inmobiliarias

    Solución tecnológica que posibilita el acceso a Internet desde cualquier local del inmueble, a través de un enlace dedicado asimétrico, que permite la simultaneidad de una conversación telefónica y la navegación en Internet.

    – Básica: Con velocidad de bajada (Red – Usuario) hasta 128 Kbps y de subida (Usuario – Red) hasta 64 Kbps.
    – Comercial: Con velocidad de bajada hasta 256 Kbps y de subida hasta 128 Kbps.”

    So, DSL has limited availability to real state companies and the speeds are limited to 256 kilobit per second (equivalent to a maximum of 32 Kb/s) an that at $430 CUC per month.

    They preferred solutions (and the one you mentioned in your reply) is the use of dedicated lines that DON’T make use of the regular phone lines. Those provide a maximum of 2 mb/s downstream and are available only to enterprises and the state sector at a ridiculous fees (up to 8470 CUC a month) and even so they are pathetic by modern standards (the slowest protocol for ADSL is G.992.1 and it goes up to 8Mb/s downstream).

    The rest of your quote is irrelevant, since it doesn’t mention the speeds they can get in their intranet backbone connections, but taking in account that its from 2004, they are most likely using the old 45 Mb/s networks, completely inadequate to handle high volume traffic. Even if they outsmarted the US and deployed the best available networks at that time, the best they can get is 2Gb/s.

    To put in in perspective, the undersea cable from Venezuela is supposed to handle a maximum of 640Gb/s (source here, so whatever they deployed back then should be unable to handle that much traffic.

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