In a first for Cuba, state-run telecom launching internet on cellphones

In a first for Cuba, state-run telecom launching internet on cellphones

In a first for Cuba, state-run telecom launching internet on cellphones

Gaining full internet access on a phone may seem archaic in the States, but in Cuba, it's been a work in progress.

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.

Almost half of the Communist-run country's 11.2 million residents have cellphones although not all will be able to afford mobile internet.

Smartphone users in Cuba will soon have access to a 3G network, state-run telecom firm ETECSA announced on Tuesday.

Only 60,000 Cubans have internet access through a limited program that allows people to connect through DSL lines in their homes, according to government statistics.

However the BBC says the cost of the service might be out of reach for many Cubans.

ETECSA said it would charge the equivalent of 10 cents a megabyte for the new service and released four plans Cubans can purchase.

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That likely will be welcome news to many Cubans, who live in a country that the nonprofit rights monitor Freedom House calls "one of the world's least connected and most repressive environments for information and communication technologies".

The cost of access poses a steep barrier in a country where almost 60 percent of the population lives on $100 or less per month, as a 2016 Cuban consumer survey found. The country's main Internet link comes through the ALBA-1 submarine cable, which runs from Venezuela. Only a few sites are blocked, while Cubans will still have access to communications applications to speak to friends and family overseas.

The announcement is a milestone for the Communist-run island, which has always been one of the Western Hemisphere's least-connected countries and is one of the last countries in the world without mobile internet.

In the past, Cubans only had access to a government-run email service on their phones.

In 2015, President Obama allowed USA businesses to invest in Cuba's telecom sector.

Prior to the announcement, President Miguel Diaz-Canel welcomed the move in a post on Twitter, saying Cuba "continues to advance in the digitisation of society".

The internet is mostly uncensored in Cuba, although the government blocks a small number of sites like the US -funded Radio and Television Marti networks and others that advocate for systematic change on the island. And in a sign of how things have changed in Cuba in recent years, their discussion also was streamed on Facebook and YouTube. As it told its customers about the new Internet access, ETECSA also warned them that in the first days of operation, "incidents could be experienced" that will disrupt service.

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