Suddenly there are 51 hotspots in Cuba where the internet can be accessed by anyone. Until now, some companies and ministries in the country had access and Wifi was available in a few Havana hotels and some in resort areas. But now Cubans can access the internet for the price of an access card and they are happily taking advantage of the opportunity.
In Havana in November there were quite a number of hotspots and reportedly they have abeen set up in most Cuban cities from Pinar del Rio to Santiago de Cuba. Cards are available from the Cuban telephone company ETECSA’s sales points for $2CUC (more in some hotels) but individual entrepreneurs sell them for $3CUC most anywhere in the Wifi zone.
I purchased a card on La Rampa from a friendlily Cubano who made sure I understood how the whole system worked (he even explained that he buys cards for $2CUC and resells them at a profit – ‘perfectly normal’ he explained) and joined the gang sitting on the wall outside the Yara movie theatre at 23 y L. The Wifi is available all the way up the high traffic Rampa, but there is no place formal allocated for using it, so surfers perch everywhere and anywhere they can find a handy seat.
Speed is inconsistent, but at its best, it’s not bad for email and individual internet pages can be loaded. I also took the card that I purchased and found that it worked even better in the lobby of the nearby Capri hotel where the connection speed was very good indeed. (the Capri sells the required cards for $2CUC but only to their guests.)
The bottom line is that Cuba has taken a large, and possibly bold, step forward. One Cuba watcher told me that despite the possibility of Cubans having access to the world’s news and information, the authorities are prepared to live with that in order that young Cubans can become part of the information age.