Cuba debuts Internet centers, but can people afford them?

The island nation opens more than 100 public Internet centers across the country, but the cost for one hour online is equal to 25 percent of the average worker's monthly salary.

One of the most closed-off countries in the world has finally started to roll out Internet for its citizens. The Cuban government has officially opened 118 public Internet centers across the country, according to the Associated Press.

Up until now, computers with Internet access were sparse on the island. Besides a few universities and employers offering access, some of the only places to get online were tourist hotels that charged up to $8 an hour for erratic Wi-Fi, according to the Associated Press.

The Cuban government estimates that only 2.9 percent of the country's citizens get online, according to the Associated Press. Some analysts put the number closer to 5 percent to 10 percent. This is still low, however -- in the U.S., nearly 80 percent of people have Internet access, according to Internet World Stats.

While public Internet centers are a major step forward for a nation that has been accused of online censorship and strict communication restrictions, the cost of Internet use is so high that it will most likely remain out of reach for many Cubans.

The service costs $4.50 per hour, according to the Associated Press, but the average wage for the majority of Cubans is $20 per month (food, education, healthcare, and other costs are subsidized by the government).

It's possible, however, that Internet prices could drop. Cuba began permitting the use of cell phones in 2008 , and at the time it cost $100 to open an account. According to the Associated Press, opening a mobile account now only costs $15.

The government has said that the Internet centers are possible because of the fiber-optic undersea cable connection that Cuba has been working on installing with Venezuela over the past few years, according to the Associated Press. And, the government says that Internet access is expected to become even more readily available.

Cuba's vice minister of communications Wilfredo Gonzalez told the Associated Press that the country is now looking to make wireless Internet available on mobile devices in the "relatively near future."

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About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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