ETECSA announces updates to Cuba's internet service

Posted: 22-Dec-16 11:23

Cuba’s government-run telecommunications company and sole internet provider has announced a series of changes, effective as of 19th December, such as lowered tariffs for browsing the international worldwide web and a new national browsing package with heavily slashed fares. The company has also revealed details for a two-month trial programme that will bring internet access to 2,000 homes in Old Havana.

ETECSA announces updates to Cuba's internet service

After a rocky 2016, during which the company received more complaints than ever for patchy mobile and internet service, Cuba’s national telecommunications company, ETECSA, has decided to turn over a new leaf before the start of 2017 and has announced a series of discounts for users of their mobile internet service whilst introducing a new national browsing packaged, called La Bolsa Nauta, and revealing details about the launch of a pilot programme bringing home internet access to 2,000 residents in Old Havana.

With changes effective as of last Monday, 19th December, the one measure foreign visitors can smile about (if planning to access the internet on their mobile phone devices whilst in Cuba by using a Nauta account) is a $0.50 CUC reduction in the hourly cost of getting online.

Previously internet access was charged at $2 CUC per hour and while the new discount doesn’t make it exactly cheap, or significantly more accessible to the average Cuban, it is a step in the right direction.

The second measure is the introduction of a new package for locals browsing national websites and accessing regional content. Through the newly introduced La Bolsa Nauta package, locals can browse local sites for the reduced fare of 0.25 CUC per hour. This only gives them access to Cuban pages and is especially useful for students looking to access websites like EcuRed (Cuba’s answer to Wikipedia) and for individuals wanting to read up on national and international news or check out local cultural events, gigs or concerts at pages like La Papeleta.

According to a statement given to national Cuban newspaper, Juventud Rebelde, Beatriz Fernandez Rivera, Commercial Communication Specialist at ETECSA, the new La Bolsa package would “facilitate the search for cultural, informative and investigative national content”. To this she added:

“There are multiple online websites and portals in our national network that allow users to find help with their homework, carry out research tasks and check out cultural calendars across the country, as well as read news about Cuba and the rest of the world.”

The third announcement is for the introduction of a new home internet service to be installed across 2,000 homes in Old Havana. Over the next few days the installation process will begin and the two-month trial programme will instantly kick off, bringing home internet access to Cubans for the first time ever. After the signing of a contract for home internet connection, the new users will be given the equipment to get online from home. Access will be granted for a limited number of hours per day, and users who exceed this amount will be able to top up after paying an additional fee. After the trial period is over, those who wish can continue subscribed to the new service and keep their home internet connection.

The latter is the biggest move the government has made towards normalising and widening internet access in Cuba for the average local, and could be in line with the recent signing of a new agreement between Google and Cuba last week, supposedly bringing Google Global Cache to the island for faster internet access. We’ll have to wait after the trial period ends to see whether ETECSA expands the service and starts offering home internet access nationwide.


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