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Monday, August 08, 2016

Between Analogue and Ideologue. Internet Access in Cuba

Between Analogue and Ideologue. Internet Access in Cuba / Regina Coyula

Ideas shared at the Internet Governance Forum events of the Internet
Society of Latin America and the Caribbean, which recently took place in
Costa Rica.

Regina Coyula, 5 August 2016 — Now recognised as a human right by most
people and most governments, internet access in Cuba has been a bumpy
road. Cuba connected to the internet in September, 1996. The first
dial-up internet access, by telephone, was via government information
offices, although some users could access email .cu from their homes.The
speed of the noisy connection through a modem some three or four years
ago, hardly got to 50-56 kbps.

In 2010 news came out of the extension of a powerful underwater fibre
optic cable, from Guaira, Venezuela to Santiago de Cuba. According to
the report, this cable would be the solution for data transmission
speed; we would no longer depend on satellite connections. When the
cable reached Cuba, for nearly four years its use was a mystery –
something was happening, therefore there must be something there. The
last mile, most of us thought, was the expensive technological challenge
which was delaying access for the public. But a solution was found in
the form of wifi connections.

In a little under three years, they opened internet rooms in diifferent
parts of the country, at a charge of 4.50 cuc an hour. That availability
did not increase until 2015 with the provision of wifi points in
principal town centre locations. ETECSA (Government-owned Cuban Telecoms
Company) only offers services at home to foreign residents in Cuba, to
officials and to certain personalities and journalists.

There are various information networks which make up the internet
(Informed, Cubarte, Rimed, Upec, etc.). The great majority of their
users don't have internet access in their homes. Those who do, have an
access packet of 25-100 hours a month.

Universities, and some colleges, offer access. Students have an
increasing allocation (250 Mb a month in their last year of study).

When you hear talk in the press and in international forums about
percentages of access to the internet, above all they are referring to
the above-mentioned Internet which is generally limited to .cu sites, to
an email provider and some news sites.

Cuba, with illiteracy erradicated, free education, and with a high
percentage of university professionals, technicians and skilled workers,
has the lowest level of internet penetration in the region.

One hour of connection now costs 2 cuc, and the average salary is about
20-25 cuc a month. People use their connection time mostly for
communicating with family and friends. Use of mobile data in the CUBACEL
network costs $1.00 CUC for every MB and is only available by going into
the email service @nauta.cu.

In the broadcasting media you often come across references to negative
aspects of the internet, such as child porn, racism, violence, loss of
privacy, which influences people who only know the internet by hear-say.
The government is the only IT service provider and importing routers,
hotspots and other digital tools for private use is prohibited by law.

People don't know about the power of social networks to help them get
organised and achieve consensus about things which matter, from local
issues up to the desire to elect the President of the Republic. In fact,
many people imagine that Facebook IS the internet.

The internet has not been free from profound ideologisation. If the
terms of the embargo laws imposed by the US government have particularly
impacted IT, it is our duty to insist on the importance of eliminating
the internal blockade on information and vindicate the open and
democratic character of the internet, wihout any censorship of the
contents or personal opinions inside or outside of the web.

An additional factor in Cuba is that video gamers, prevented from
gaining access to the real internet, have put together a cable
connection which is free but contributory, which nowadays is not used
just for games but also for online chat and the notorious Weekly Packet,
which the authorities prohibit but cannot sanction as it is not for profit.

Priorities

- Lower access cost
- Improve the quantity and quality of connection locations
-Attack digital illiteracy

Objectives
- Initial public discussion on the Media Law
- Public education by way of courses on browsers, digital business,
social networks, cyber security, ethics, etc. In Council computer clubs
for kids.
- National education channel
- Open access internet
- Transparency over payments for internet connections in order to
improve public access
- Permit private connections at market price with equal transparency and
for the same reason as the above.
- Make public internet connections, where you now have to pay, free.

Translated by GH

Source: Between Analogue and Ideologue. Internet Access in Cuba / Regina
Coyula – Translating Cuba -
http://translatingcuba.com/between-analogue-and-ideologue-internet-access-in-cuba-regina-coyula/
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