Cuba’s state TELECOM, Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba, S.A. (ETECSA), reported this week that it expects to offer internet access to households by the end of 2014.
According to Jorge Legrá, ETECSA’s Program Director, the state agency “expects to reach households with ADSL technology by modulating the data signals in a higher frequency band than that used in conventional telephonic conversations.” Legrá added that “they are trying to do away with dial up access which, besides having poor quality issues, is not designed for that type of network.”
This development is long overdue as most Cubans have no access to the internet and those that do are typically professionals (e.g., doctors, journalists, academics, etc.).
As we reported in February, Cuba’s fiber optic data connection from Venezuela can provide download speeds 3,000 times faster than Cuba’s current satellite links and will be able to handle millions of phone calls simultaneously. With this recent announcement on expanding access, Cuba appears to be putting to use its new fiber optic cable. ETECSA is also increasing public internet access areas. According to local news outlets, Cuba is adding 118 new internet access areas throughout the Island, offering web access via the national portal "Nauta", including permanent or temporary accounts to surf the web, e-mail capability, and other services.
Still, the cost for access is quite high for a country whose median monthly income is less than 20 dollars. Internet access in Cuba can reach upwards of 4.5 dollars per hour. ETECSA’s Legrá acknowledges that the high cost of access is an issue but he pledged that ETECSA intends to adjust the fees gradually over time.
It is no secret that access to the internet is a factor in driving economic activity. In 2012 Brazil, Mexico and Argentina led in the percentage of internet users in Latin America and the same three ranked in the top 4 in Latin America for GDP growth the same year.