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Netflix begins streaming in Cuba as relations with US thaw

The streaming service is one of the first US companies to take advantage of improving relations, but limited broadband access means Cubans won't be bingeing on "House of Cards" just yet.

Streaming service Netflix is available in a range of countries and languages, including Spanish. Netflix

Netflix has launched in Cuba, one of the first US companies to take advantage of a thaw in relations between the two countries.

The US has imposed trade and travel restrictions since 1962 against the Caribbean island, which is 93 miles off the coast of Florida. But in December 2014, President Barack Obama announced a relaxation of those restrictions. Online movie and TV streaming service Netflix, which is on course for brisk international expansion, went live Monday for Cubans to start enjoying "House of Cards" and more.

That doesn't mean many inhabitants of Cuba will be able to start watching immediately, however. Although it is improving, Internet access is limited and relatively expensive under state-owned telecoms monopoly Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA).

According to 2013 statistics from the International Telecommunication Union, only 25.7 per cent of the 11 million population use the Internet and just 12.7 per cent of households have a computer at home. Broadband access at home costs around $40 a month.

Watching Netflix will cost $7.99 a month. Access to American credit cards will also increase as a result of the thawing of relations, with MasterCard and American Express planning to begin handling US credit-card transactions in Cuba as soon as 1 March.

Netflix could provide a route for Cuban art to reach the world. "Cuba has great filmmakers and a robust arts culture," said Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, "and one day we hope to be able to bring their work to our global audience of over 57 million members."

Netflix plans to be available in 200 countries by the end of 2016, up from around 50 countries today. The service launches in Australia and New Zealand in March and in Japan later this year.

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