Cuban Centers to Offer a Costly Glimpse of the Web-with help from Venezuela
HAVANA — Cuban authorities said Tuesday that they would begin offering public Internet access at more than 100 cybersalons across the island, where residential access is greatly restricted.
Starting next Tuesday, people can sign up with the state telecom company Etecsa for temporary or permanent accounts to use at one of the 118 centers, according to a measure enacted with its publication in the government’s Official Gazette.
An official newspaper, Juventud Rebelde, said new areas for Internet navigation would gradually be incorporated.
Until now, the Internet has been limited to places like tourist hotels, which charge $8 an hour for Wi-Fi; foreign-run companies; and some sectors of Cuban business and government. Home dial-up accounts are rare and restricted.
According to government statistics, only 2.9 percent of Cubans said they had access to the Web — though significant underreporting appears likely. About 16 percent were able to go partway online via a domestic intranet and e-mail, often through workplace or school hookups or places like computer clubs and post offices.
“Great! I knew this was coming,” said Camila Delgado, a 44-year-old shop worker in Havana, though she added: “There’s still a ways to go to be like everywhere else on the planet. We don’t have access at home, and the prices are prohibitive.”
Indeed, some scoffed at the new computer centers’ price tag of $4.50 an hour. That is a stiff fee when state salaries average about $20 per month, although there are an array of subsidized goods and services.