HAVANA TIMES, Feb 20 — I’ve heard tons of complaints about Internet use in our country but I’d never experienced it firsthand. Thanks to a friend, every two or three days I’d always been able to open my mail as well as access news from around the world.
Unfortunately that same friend, Arlety, decided to travel outside of the province to Havana, where she’s going to stay for two or three months. Then again, she might not even return, which would leave me joining the ranks of the millions of Cubans with no access to the “network of networks.”
“I have to do something,” I said to myself. “I can’t sit idly by. I need to check my mail.”
Then I remembered that someone I knew would check their account at a place called Telepoint (the telephone company’s main office in the center of town) – so I headed off for there.
Once at the office they told me that the Internet could only be accessed there by foreigners visiting the province and by Cubans who were residents abroad.
“But what about Guantanamo residents who are Cuban citizens? Don’t we have any right to communicate with the world?” I asked the young woman in charge of the small internet room.
“Well…,” was all she could say, shrugging her shoulders with a look of surprise. I could only imagine what she was thinking. Is this gal new here or what?
“At Hotel Guantanamo you can get online!” my other friend, Yaremis, reminded me. “The blue-uniformed guard lets people in,” she added.
“Christ,” I thought to myself, I’d completely forgotten we now have the right to go inside hotels.
“Thanks,” I said and excused myself. I needed to send an urgent e-mail that day and couldn’t spare any more time. Nonetheless, I still figured I’d run into some bad luck because I’d be getting there late since they only stayed open a few hours.
I got a lift on a motorcycle (a form of private transportation that is widely used here in the two easternmost provinces), and in less than five minutes I was there at Hotel Guantanamo, the most important one in the city.
There, I was affably attended by a young woman who quickly told me, “You can get online, you only have to buy card, which costs 5 CUC ($5.50 usd) an hour” – more than my entire week’s pay.
“How’s that?” I said.
She thought I hadn’t understood and tried to explain it to me again.
“No, no,” I interrupted her, “I understood you perfectly well. What I meant is, how is it that one hour online can be so expensive?”
I think the person who didn’t understand then was her, since she then ignored me and started talking with another woman who was also interested in logging on.