Cuba continues to make strides opening up to the rest of the world, and the island nation took another step with the addition of internet service on the mobile phones of select users.
According to Reuters.com, new Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel opened access to the mobile internet for journalists at state-run news outlets, but still blocks access to dissident websites. Even with the remaining roadblocks, the addition of internet access is a radical change.
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The government previously approved an unspecified number of companies and embassies to purchase mobile data plans from state-run telecom group, ETECSA. Officials from ETECSA also announced plans to offer mobile internet to five million mobile phone customers by the end of 2018, but the company did not provide details or a plan for achieving the goal.
“This rollout will expand slowly at first and then more quickly, if the government is increasingly confident that it can control any political fallout,” Baruch College Cuba expert Ted Henken told Reuters.
Over the last five years, Cuba has worked to increase connectivity on the island, including the introduction of cybercafes and outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots, but the country is still pushing hard for citizens to use government-sponsored applications and intranet providers.
While many Cubans are hopeful of a more connected nation, the process has been slow. The island is installing 3G technology and just 11,000 homes last year were connected to the internet.
One of the biggest issues facing the growth of connectivity is the price tag. The average monthly wage is $30 in Cuba, and internet hotspots charge $1 an hour while ETECSA charges companies and embassies $45 a month for four gigabytes. It remains unclear how much it will cost for mobile internet access.