Cuba launches net on mo­bile phones

Kuwait Times - - International -

HA­VANA: Cubans will be able to ac­cess the in­ter­net on their mo­bile phones from to­day, state-run tele­coms monopoly ETECSA said, mark­ing a mile­stone for what has long been one of the Western Hemi­sphere’s least con­nected coun­tries. Nearly half of the Com­mu­nist-run coun­try’s 11.2 mil­lion res­i­dents have cell­phones although not all will be able to af­ford mo­bile in­ter­net. In a news show broad­cast late on Tues­day, ETECSA ex­ec­u­tives an­nounced a range of pack­ages valid for 30 days from 600 MB for the equiv­a­lent of $7 dol­lars to 4 GB for $30. With­out a pack­age, 100 MB will cost users $10.

The cost will be out of reach for many Cubans as the av­er­age state wage is around $30 per month, and many peo­ple rely on re­mit­tances from rel­a­tives abroad or side gigs to get by. “It was about time this be­came a pos­si­bil­ity for Cubans too,” said Ha­vana res­i­dent Joaquin Mon­tiel, 58. “But for some, like me, it’s still a re­mote one.” Mon­tiel said he would not be able to af­ford a cell­phone with 3G tech­nol­ogy on his wage of less than $20 per month as a sales­man in a state com­pany. Cuba has lagged far be­hind most coun­tries in Web ac­cess, whether be­cause of a lack of cash, a long-run­ning US trade em­bargo or con­cerns about the flow of in­for­ma­tion.

Un­til 2013, in­ter­net was largely only avail­able to the pub­lic at tourist ho­tels on the is­land. But the gov­ern­ment has since made boost­ing con­nec­tiv­ity a pri­or­ity, in­tro­duc­ing cy­ber­cafes and out­door Wi-Fi hotspots and slowly start­ing to hook up homes to the Web.

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