HAVANA,7 Feb. Cuban authorities plan to have more than 300 centers for accessing the Internet by late 2015, almost double the 155 so-called “cyber points” that were open to the public at the end of last year, according to the projections of Etecsa, the state-run telecommunications company, as cited by media on the island.
In the first quarter of this year, the state company plans to open 73 of these cyber points, to be set up in the nation’s Joven Clubs, which already have computers installed but where only Web pages created on the island with the domain name “.cu” have been accessible up to now. In Etecsa’s cyber points, Cubans have global access to the Internet, except for certain restricted Web sites, but the connection price of $4.50 per hour is impossibly expensive in a country where the average monthly wage ranges from $20 to $30.
The communications director at Etecsa, Luís Manuel Díaz, said in a statement on Cuban television that the process of bringing the island online also contemplates the creation of Wi-Fi networks in hotels. Late last year, Etecsa officials announced that the company intends not only to increase the number of cyber points in 2015, but also to offer Wi-Fi areas for wireless connections, though plans for the latter have not yet been consolidated.
At present, Internet connections in homes on the island are restricted to certain professionals like journalists, doctors and lawyers – with previous authorization by the government – while the majority of Cubans can only access the Web at the cyber points that opened in June 2013 with 118 public access centers.
As part of the process of normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States and lifting sanctions on the island, the White House last January eased export restrictions on IT equipment and software to improve telecommunications in the Caribbean country and to lower the costs.