Apple Magazine - - Summary -

For the first time, av­er­age Cubans be­came el­i­gi­ble to sign up for in­ter­net ser­vice for their mo­bile phones, a devel­op­ment long awaited on the com­mu­nist-ruled is­land.

Users be­gan re­ceiv­ing text mes­sages in the morn­ing from the state tele­phone monopoly in­form­ing them that they can buy an in­ter­net ac­cess pack­ages for 3G ser­vice.

Pre­vi­ously, nearly all Cubans could use their mo­bile phones only to get their state-run email ac­counts un­less they con­nected to the in­ter­net at a limited num­ber of gov­ern­mentspon­sored Wi-Fi spots. Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and for­eign busi­ness­peo­ple could use their mo­biles any­where to ac­cess the 3G net­work in re­cent years, though not al­ways re­li­ably.

The new ser­vice is be­ing made avail­able grad­u­ally through last week­end depend­ing on a user’s phone num­ber, to avoid the con­ges­tion that struck Cuba’s mo­bile net­work dur­ing a se­ries of heav­ily crit­i­cized tests this year.

“It’s ex­cel­lent news,” said Gus­tavo Andujar, who works for the Ro­man Catholic Church and was among the ini­tial group of users to re­ceive the an­nounce­ment from the phone com­pany, ETECSA. “It’s hav­ing the in­ter­net in your pocket!”

Andujar said he will use the ser­vice to check email and check some in­for­ma­tion, but he will con­tinue to use Wi-Fi for fam­ily con­ver­sa­tions by video and other down­loads be­cause the prices for the new ser­vice are high for Cubans.

The phone com­pany is of­fer­ing pack­ages rang­ing from 600 megabytes for about $7 to four gi­ga­bytes for about $30, which is in line with charges else­where but high for most Cubans, whose salaries av­er­age $30 to $50 a month. Still, many Cubans have their mo­bile ac­counts paid by rel­a­tives liv­ing abroad.

The in­ter­net is mostly un­cen­sored in Cuba, although the gov­ern­ment blocks a small num­ber of sites like the U.S.-funded Ra­dio and Tele­vi­sion Marti net­works and oth­ers that ad­vo­cate for sys­tem­atic change on the is­land.

Cuba has one of the world’s low­est rates of in­ter­net use, but ser­vice be­gan ex­pand­ing in re­cent years un­der then Pres­i­dent Raul Casto, and cur­rent Pres­i­dent Miguel Diaz-Canel has said he wants to ex­pand con­nec­tiv­ity for Cubans.

The gov­ern­ment au­tho­rized home in­ter­net in 2017 and pub­lic Wi-Fi con­nec­tion points have opened in about 830 parks and plazas around the coun­try.

The new mo­bile ser­vice “is a good op­tion for the Cuban peo­ple, that each one can con­nect to their home with­out hav­ing to go to a park or any other place,” said Miguel Pel­let, a butcher who has be­ing re­ly­ing on a Wi-Fi spot at a park.

Pel­let said he plans to buy the 600-megabyte pack­age so his grand­mother, with whom he lives, can talk with his par­ents, who live abroad.

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