Cuba and the Internet
March 28, 2016
by Mark Ollig

Havana, Cuba will have 30 new public Internet WiFi zones this year, according to Odalys Rodriguez del Toro, director of Havana’s Division of ETECSA.

ETECSA (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba), or Telecommunications Company of Cuba, provides the islands’ telecom and Internet services.

This information comes from a Feb. 2 article on the Cuban website: www.cubasi.cu – its English version is: http://cubasi.com.

By the way, “.cu” is Cuba’s Internet country code top-level domain name.

As of 2014, a little over 3 million Cubans are “users of Internet services,” according to the 2015 National Bureau of Statistics and Information report, provided by the Council of Ministers in Cuba.

This same report disclosed Cuba had 1.1 million computers in 2014.

I read a recent BBC News article that said just 5 percent of Cubans have Internet access in their homes.

The Cuban “Oficina Nacional De Estadistica E Informacion” (National Bureau of Statistics and Information) webpage is translated into English here: http://tinyurl.com/bitsONEI.

Another article described how Cuba will be overseeing a project for bringing the Internet into citizen’s homes this year in historic Old Havana, which is a popular tourist municipality in Havana.

The connections, the article said, will be through fiber-optics; “thanks to an agreement with Chinese company Huawei.”

“ETECSA described the new service as a pilot project and said prices would be announced in the future,” according to a related CBS News report from Jan. 31.

Most Cuban workers earn an average state salary of 28 CUC (Cuban Convertible - Peso) which is equivalent to $28 USD per month.

A temporary Internet access account, via a prepaid card, is commonly used by tourists and others visiting Cuba.

ETECSA’s public Internet service provider is called Nauta.

By using an account card containing a login and password, people in Cuba are able to access government hotspot WiFi signals, and connect to the Internet using their smartphones, laptops, and tablet computing devices.

Internet connection time using these cards can be purchased from 30 minutes to one hour, and from 30 to 330 days.

Here’s what a 30-minute Nauta card looks like: http://tinyurl.com/Bits-Card.

A person’s email account is created for them with a: username@enet.cu email address.

From the Internet, users check their email by going to: http://webmail.enet.cu.

This reminds me of the early days of CompuServe, Prodigy, and AOL dial-up access over a regular telephone line.

Actually, I still have (and regularly use) my original AOL email address.

ETECSA’s website says Internet connection speeds from 64Kbps to 166Mbps are available.

Some of you may not be aware, but Cuba does have a very modern means of connection with the rest of the world.

One dedicated, fiber-optic submarine cable crosses the Caribbean Sea, and terminates directly to Cuba.

“Alternativa Bolivariana para los Pueblos de nuestra America” known as ALBA-1, is a 1,156 mile fiber-optic cable which began providing international voice services to Cuba in August 2012.

In January 2013, ETECSA confirmed this fiber-optic cable was also carrying Internet traffic.

Its Caribbean Sea route runs from a landing point located in La Guairá, Venezuela, to Siboney, Cuba.

This fiber-optic cable then continues it path from Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, to the Ocho Rios, Jamaica landing point.

I’ve read the ALBA-1 fiber-optic cable is largely used by the government; although, some bandwidth is now being used for public Internet connections.

Before this fiber-optic cable was activated, Cuba accessed the Internet via satellite links.

The Interactive Submarine Cable Map is located on the TeleGeography Data webpage.

This webpage shows every non-classified, underwater fiber optic cable route on the planet: http://www.submarinecablemap.com.

Here is a screen capture I made of Cuba’s ALBA-1 submarine cable route: http://tinyurl.com/Cuba-Alba1.

The ETECSA website is: http://www.etecsa.cu.

Havana Times, an English website, was started in 2008, and averages 3,000 visits per day.

This website provides a broad range of articles and discussions on topics related to Cuba, and its people.

Some of its writers and photographers live in Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo, and in the US.

You can read the Havana Times at: http://www.havanatimes.org.

Vinton G. Cerf, whom many consider the “father of the modern Internet,” spoke March 16 at the International Computer Sciences Symposium, in Cuba.

“There is a lot of creative energy in Cuba,” Cerf was quoted as saying.

President Obama’s and Vinton Cerf’s recent visits are written about on the Cuban communist party central committee website: http://en.granma.cu (this link is their English version).

I read a March 21 Reuters article reporting that Google, per President Obama’s comments to ABC News, has negotiated a deal to “expand Internet access in Cuba.”

This expansion will come in the form of more WiFi and broadband public access centers in Cuba.

The U.S Department of the Treasury updated their “Frequently Asked Questions Related to Cuba” document March 16.

This text includes newly updated telecommunication and Internet-related services regarding Cuba, and can be read at: http://tinyurl.com/CubaFAQ.

ETECSA is on Twitter at: @ETECSA_Cuba, and my regularly updated anecdotes can be seen using @bitsandbytes handle.

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