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