By Jancel Moreno

HAVANA TIMES – Today, we can say that most people know about the mobile instant messaging app ToDUS, developed by the University of Information Sciences (UCI) and Cuba’s state telecommunications company (ETECSA). A project which has been on a trial run until now, but which has proven that they can think about helping the Cuban people more than about taking every penny they can, like we are used to with ETECSA’s services.

While it’s true that there have been problems with the App on more than one occasion, it really is a breakthrough as it has helped Cubans to understand how internet messaging works. Although I repeat, there are still some things that the App needs to work out, but it has been a great relief for many Cubans and even more so for those who have access to 3G technology.

However, on August 14th 2018, I received news in one of the chat groups I’m in that we would have free internet until 8 PM. Suddenly, joy filled the streets and it was quite an event. I called up all my friends to tell them to take advantage of the situation, you could even hear some neighbors shouting the news from balcony to balcony.

It was real, not a fake rumor. I had internet on my phone and I didn’t have to pay a single cent. In the beginning, it was almost going as fast as ETECSA’s WIFI service, but then it seems that the network became overloaded, as I’m sure most of us Cubans were all connected at the same time.

At 2:20 PM, there wasn’t any trace of internet on my cellphone. I went back into ToDus and the trial had effectively ended, nobody had access anymore.

Asking ourselves what could have happened, I realized that it was just a simple collapse because nearly all of my friends were making video calls, downloading apps and even playing games online; which must have led to ETECSA’s platform becoming so congested that it affected mobile data for approximately 30 mins.

But like some people rightly say, it was a great opportunity. We enjoyed nearly two and a half hours of internet access, which has proven that ETECSA still needs to work at being able to support mass Cuban access to the internet. However, it also proves that if there had been a willingness to provide a good service a while ago, today, Cubans would be able to surf the web like the rest of the world.

While we continue to wait for more trials like today, it was great to feel like the rest of the world, connected and without having to look at how much time we have left on our account, even if it was just for two and a half hours.

7 thoughts on “Internet Access Breakthrough in Cuba

  • I Dan Segal am not questioning Ellie’s concerns about positions in the US – note my first paragraph! Nor would I have the temerity to suggest that my knowledge of the US compares with hers, she no doubt knows “better” regarding her own country. But, I have explained why I am able to speak of Cuba and it is highly probable that I do know more about the plight of Cubans than she.
    But, the obvious inability of US laws to for example prevent the use of cell-phones whilst driving, does not serve as a reason for suggesting that Cubans might be wise to avoid or restrain Internet access. They have been denied access to information available to the free world for sixty years and I favour freedom of information.
    The world does not automatically mimic the US.

    I do not argue that US citizens ought not to be concerned with the numerous problems which both you and she observe in your society. But that ought not to used as a reason for denying Cubans the rights that others have. Cubans as a society do not have the means to openly express their views, the only ‘voice’ permitted being that of the Castro regime. Sixty years of censorship have ensured that!

    Finally, a comment about ETECSA. That company holds a State monopoly (with a 27% shareholding being owned by RAFIN SA – Raul and Fidel Castro) and all telephonic communication is through its systems. ETECSA is in consequence able to monitor ALL non-direct communication, adding to the information recorded by MININT through the CDR and other sources about each and every Cuban citizen.
    I read your final paragraph with particular interest, for it reflects the freedoms which Americans enjoy being able to openly discuss anything and everything. Such freedoms are totally denied for Cubans in their country where even the walls have ears and where criticism of the regime or the PCC is criminal and punished as such. Yes, you are justifiably concerned currently with the creeping autocracy of your elected President and infringements upon freedom of speech through threat. But that does not compare with Cuba – and yes, about that I do know!

  • As usual, Carlyle is turning others’ comments into a contest of who knows better. What Ellie is saying is not that she thinks Cubans should appreciate their isolation, or that government knows best. She’s only saying (I believe) that a society should be careful what it wishes for. And that in a society such as the US, where almost everything is available, for only a cost, we often find consequences we didn’t anticipate. And then it’s hard to turn back the clock.

    I agree with her. It’s certainly possible that we will regret some unlimited freedoms eventually–most intelligent Americans surely ponder on occasion the cost of various freedoms. Whether you consider the prevalence of cell phones, or drugs, weapons, even free expression…the last one being a seriously contentious issue in real time, in the present, as it relates to American society today. We think we’ve figured all that out, yet we still debate it daily in the streets, in the courts, etc. I don’t advocate for government restricting information, language, opinion, or the expression of those things. But I don’t pretend that those things always result in positive outcomes.

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