HAVANA TIMES — Etecsa, Cuba’s telecommunications monopoly, has done it again; it is Cuban families’ public enemy number 1, without any logical need or reason. At a time when many Cubans are still learning how to use the company’s expensive Nauta services, the firm has in effect jacked up its prices, reports Progreso Semanal.
Since salaried Cuban workers and professionals are unable to pay for cellphone use most people are dependent on relatives and friends abroad to top-up their accounts. Now Etecsa has suddenly reduced to a third the time credits must be used.
The person abroad used to pay approximately 20 CUC, plus commission, or the equivalent in other currencies, and the recipient on the island would receive an additional 30 CUC in credit, which expired a month and a half later. Now, they will only have 16 days to use up the same amount of credit. (One CUC = 1.15 USD and the average salary of Cubans is barely over $20 USD per month.)
No matter what angle you look at it from, the two major effects of this measure are to further limit the possibilities that customers already have and/or force their friends and relatives to spend more; thereby fattening the never satisfied ETECSA coffers.
The many millions in profits the company makes from top-ups from abroad, a state secret, is considered by many as part of what are known as the billions per year in family remittances sent to the island. Cubans have no alternatives like Skype, g-mail talk, or other free or cheaper ways to communicate as they are not allowed by the monopoly.
Cubans have learned the hard way that monopolies are rarely good for the consumer; whether they are capitalism’s great holdings, or socialism’s State companies. How did a single company here, just one, come to have so much power over so many people’s lives? How could they have so little understanding of what it means to make such a basic service more difficult. Who will be able to take on Etecsa?