Cuba seeks to boost wi-fi as tourists arrive

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TRAVEL GAZETTE – Cuba seeks to expand Internet access throughout the island, particularly with public Wi-Fi spots and selected private businesses.

“We have taken important steps to expand Internet access with significant investments to have a favorable penetration rate in our country and making these services accessible to the majority of the Cuban population,” Tania Velasquez, business and marketing director of the island’s telecommunication company ETECSA told Xinhua.

Last year, ETECSA implemented 65 public Wi-Fi areas all over the Caribbean nation, mainly in parks and popular areas, along with 118 cybercafes that met the increasing demands of the population to have greater access to the web.

Since then it has become a popular sight in streets and parks to see Cubans of all ages with their cellphones, laptops and tablets searching the web, talking to their relatives abroad and interacting over different social networks.

“I think these areas are a positive first step but we need more access to the Internet. Today in Cuba young people are eager for information and greater knowledge,” said Jesus Vivero, a 20-year-old college student.

In one of the most popular Wi-Fi areas in Havana, Vivero along with other university friends use their Internet time to video chat with family members or make new friends over Facebook.

Cubans must buy cards worth 1 hour or recharge their permanent Internet accounts at a cost of 2 CUC an hour (2 U.S. dollars) to connect to the web, an amount that for many is considerably high because the average salary for a state worker is around 24 U.S. dollars per month.

“The service has to be provided in better places and the cost must decrease taking into consideration how expensive it is for the average Cuban,” added Alejandro Torres, a recently graduated journalist who works for state media.

The expected influx of tourists will also demand fast online connections.

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