Communist-run Cuba Starts Rolling out Internet on Mobile Phones
HAVANA (Reuters) - Communist-run Cuba has started providing internet on the mobile phones of select users as it aims to roll out the service nationwide by year-end, in a further step toward opening one of the Western Hemisphere’s least connected countries.
Journalists at state-run news outlets were among the first this year to get mobile internet, provided by Cuba’s telecoms monopoly, as part of a wider campaign for greater internet access that new President Miguel Diaz-Canel has said should boost the economy and help Cubans defend their revolution.
Analysts said broader web access will also ultimately weaken the government’s control of what information reaches people in the one-party island state that has a monopoly on the media. Cuba frowns on public dissent and blocks access to dissident websites.
“It’s been a radical change,” said Yuris Norido, 39, who reports for several state-run news websites and the television. “I can now update on the news from wherever I am, including where the news is taking place.”
Certain customers, including companies and embassies, have also been able to buy mobile data plans since December, according to the website of Cuban telecoms monopoly ETECSA, which has not broadly publicized the move.
Most mobile phone owners have smartphones, although Cuba is only now installing 3G technology, even as most of Latin America has moved onto 4G, with 5G in its final testing phase.
“This rollout will expand slowly at first and then more quickly, if the government is increasingly confident that it can control any political fallout,” said Cuba expert Ted Henken at Baruch College in the United States.
The price could prove the biggest restriction for many, though. Hotspots currently charge $1 an hour, compared with an average state monthly wage of $30.
It was not clear what most Cubans will pay for mobile internet, but ETECSA is charging companies and embassies $45 a month for four gigabytes.
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