Cuba launches its first free public WiFi hub in Havana

Adam Westlake - Mar 15, 2015
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Cuba launches its first free public WiFi hub in Havana

In a first of its kind project in Cuba, the nation’s government has approved the opening of a WiFi hub in the city of Havana that’s free for the public to use. The country has had limited internet access resources before this, but they have been strictly allocated for schools and necessary businesses. Not only will the WiFi be free to use at a local cultural center, but the service itself is being generously shared by the center’s operator, a popular visual artist by the name of Kcho.

The Associated Press describes Kcho as having ties to the Cuban government, and thus his personal internet connection is authorized. But his opening it up to the public isn’t part of some kind of underground project to thwart state censorship, the service has actually been approved by the government-run telecom Etecsa, and Fidel Castro was even present at the center’s opening back in January 2014.

Kcho’s WiFi service offers a speed of merely 2 Mbps, far below the global average internet speed, but for the people of Cuba, that is blazing fast. Where most of the island nation’s population has little to no opportunity to connect with the world outside, the free WiFi offers a rare chance to communicate with family and friends in other countries, read about international news, and, of course, check Facebook. Unfortunately, the signal strength is often described as weak due to so many people trying to connect throughout the day.

For comparison, similar WiFi hotspots in Cuba charge prices of about $4.50 for an hour of use, with much slower speeds. This is an extravagant luxury when the average salary for citizens is around $20 per month. Kcho declined to say how much he pays for his internet service, but based on similar ADSL services, the AP estimates his monthly bill is about $900. That price seems of little concern to Kcho, as he says, “It is expensive, but the benefit is tremendous,” adding “I have something that is great and powerful. I can share it, and I am doing so.”

SOURCE Associated Press


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