Cuba calling: Cellular accounts up 60 percent
HAVANA -- Cuba's telecom monopoly said Sunday that cell phone accounts
have risen 60 percent to nearly a half-million since the communist
government made private service available to ordinary islanders last year.
Once restricted to foreigners and Cubans with key state jobs, cell
phones have been available to all Cubans since April, when President
Raul Castro's government lifted the ban.
The communist youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde reported in its Sunday
edition that some 480,000 cellular lines are now in use, compared with
300,000 before the change.
The government recently lowered the activation charge to about $65 from
$120 -- half a year's wages on the average state salary.
Most new cell users activated the service with money sent by relatives
abroad, tips from tourism jobs or earnings from the island's ubiquitous
black market economy. Prepaid cards are used to place calls.
The government also has increasingly assigned cellular phones at highly
subsidized prices to homes unable to receive regular phone service
because of a deficit of lines.