My First Genuine Wireless Browsing Experience in Cuba

For the first time in years, the ever-present red cross ceased to cover the five-bar, wireless connection icon on my laptop’s task bar.

By Vicente Morin Aguado

Connected to the wireless. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — Because of my age and financial situation, I am one of the many people who began using information technologies rather late, something of a tragedy considering I was born in Cuba. For us, this is compensated for by our children and grandchildren.

Recently, I packed my laptop and headed over to my step-son’s (who’s more than a son to me). He downloaded Connectify Hot Spot 2015 for me to install and we connected to the Wi-Fi network using the same ETECSA pre-paid card. He chatted on Facebook while I began browsing different Internet sites.

For the first time in years and to my satisfaction, I saw the wireless connection icon in the task bar. I placed the cursor on top of it and the gratifying message telling me I was connected appeared. I then headed over to Google, checked my email and finally plunged head first into the web.

Habit made me insert a USB memory stick into the laptop, a Cuban tradition stemming from the high cost of connecting to the Internet and, above all, being forced to work in public spaces, unable to use one’s own computer. At any rate, you still need to download information you have barely read, saving as much time and money as one can. The second surprise was noting that the USB drive was no longer needed. That’s when I realized that, for the first time in my life, I was actually browsing the Internet.

Another detail came to reinforce this sensation. Working with one’s own computer means using all installed applications without any kind of restriction and even installing new ones, like the priceless hot spot app. Virtually up until yesterday, the computers at public cyber cafes imposed on users a software platform created by those who, among other things, control the activities of these users.

On the corner of 23rd and M Streets. Photo: Juan Suárez

Incidentally, while surfing across the broad spectrum of available e-zines, I was surprised to come across a wide-encompassing debate published on Cubadebate, surrounding the new “illegal actions” stemming from the use of Wi-Fi networks in Cuba. There were more than 50 comments that showed a range of opinions that struck me as surprising for an official site controlled by the Communist Party.

Is it illegal to share one’s connection with others to save what money one has, given the high prices? That was, in essence, the question being debated. Kids, like my step-son, do this. We parents, grandparents and (as in my case) godparents pitch in something from our “meager savings,” the phrase that sparked off the debate, was signed by an journalist from Camaguey, Lianet Leandro Lopez.

Except for a number of harshly-criticized exceptions, everyone agreed we should get the legal aspect out of the discussion. Two comments stood out:

John said: “Bro, ETECSA is as inefficient as it is because it has no competition, and that’s true of everything else. The bosses don’t give a damn that people are having a tough time, they have all of the communication resources and means they need, the latest technologies. In short, they’re the people who run this country. People get worn out with all of the difficulties they face and, like someone said above, we waste our lives just trying to survive…”

Someone who identified himself as “Bell Canada” went in for the kill, writing: “I live in, and have apparently become accustomed to, a society where, in contrast to Cuba, one is innocent until proven otherwise or guilty. More importantly, in this society, unlike in Cuba, everything is permitted if it is not expressly prohibited. In Cuba, it’s the other way around, whatever isn’t expressly authorized is prohibited.”

Finally, powerful Mr. Money came along and asked us to shut down our computers and be on our way. I left rather satisfied with my first, true Internet browsing experience in Cuba, but the two of us were equally dissatisfied with the fact our scant resources didn’t allow for more time. We left with a pair of soft drinks and the determination to come back soon. The image of the five connection bars, now covered again by a nasty red cross, won’t leave my mind .

Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]

9 thoughts on “My First Genuine Wireless Browsing Experience in Cuba

  • with the sandinistas’ catastrophe we emigrated to california and spent there 23 years. now that the sandinistas are totally corrupted and we have capitalism, we came back to find a country drowning in poverty, but at least we have free wifi in most of the largest parks in the country

  • From what I have gathered in contributions made by Moses in the Havana Times, he would first require to be elected democratically, something that neither of the successive Castro family dictators has experienced.
    Viva Cuba
    Viva Fidel
    Viva los Castros,
    Que controlla todo y todos!
    To be published by Granma!

  • It’s seems a lot better than ten years ago. I can attest that when the internet first hit the masses in the US it was very expensive, slow and service abysmal. Now, thanks to US ingenuity, great young companies i.e. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oracle, Java and many more, access and speed are
    superb. Cuba will have its day but in the meantime my slogan is to be grateful. Gratitude for me
    is having what you have not having what you want! The fact that we have computers and cell phones is a giant step forward.

  • The Castro family have a lot to answer for!

  • Moses para el presidente!

  • My favorite quote in the article “…in this society, unlike in Cuba, everything is permitted if it is not expressly prohibited. In Cuba, it’s the other way around, whatever isn’t expressly authorized is prohibited.” I think that statement encapsulates the realities that Cuban experience.

  • Thanks Circles. I stand by my point, however, that the service should be free.

  • Moses, although still very high for most Cubans, the WiFi tickets have been going for 2 CUC or $2.30 USD an hour since the service became available at hot spots.

  • WiFi in Cuba should be free. The cost of installing WiFi hardware is minimal. The 5 cuc/hou cost to Cubans is just another money grab by the Castros. With at least a 27% personal ownership of ETECSA, it is not likely that the Castros will be giving away WiFi anytime soon.

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