Internet in Havana is getting bigger and better thanks to a previously announced expansion by state-owned telecommunications company, ETECSA, to reach private homes like casas particulares and private businesses, from restaurants (the so-called paladars) to cafés.
Better and improved internet access in Cuba has been some time in the making, with an important the government taking an important leap last year when ETECSA launched 3G service, thus for the first time allowing Cubans to access the internet from mobile phones. This phenomenon is the reason you’ll find Cubans hunched over their smartphones in public Wi-Fi hotspots like El Malecón and some centric parks in Havana and other main cities nationwide.
But the latest measure to expand internet access in Cuba started being rolled out last 29th July and it would allow Cubans to legally (and without restrictions) have internet in their homes, for the first time in the island´s history (despite the fact that a few homes were already connected thanks to pirate connections).
Thanks to this move internet in casas particulares will be a reality and no longer illegal (in the cases where a casa particular, in Havana mostly, offered internet access via illegal networks). Under the new regulations, those who had been running illegal networks have been given a two-month deadline to bring their irregular systems in line with the law and those who for now had been lacking will be able to connect to the world wide web with their own routers (import of routers into the island had been previously banned) and share their signals with others. However, ETECSA will remain Cuba’s sole internet provider as the government won´t allow small-network operators to sell their internet services.
As per an article published in the New York times, many a casa particular in Havana and beyond is leaping with joy at the news. The news piece by Kirk Semple and Hannah Berkeley Cohen tells the story of a sans internet Havana casa particular owner on the city´s outskirts who previously complained about lacking connectivity and not being able to offer their high-end clients (this casa particular in Havana is a luxurious residence with modern appliances, sleek design, contemporary artwork and a rooftop pool with ocean views).
In the casa particular owner’s words:
“It’s ridiculous to have to turn away a potential client just because of a lack of internet. Everyone who comes to Cuba wants to use the internet — that’s normal.”
Internet in a casa particular was not as common as one might think and finding a Havana casa particular with internet access was not as easy as most guests would have liked. But things are about to change very soon, actually, they already have.
It’s only a matter of time before illegal networks regularise their status and Cuban private homes start setting up their systems to enjoy uninterrupted Wi-Fi access. Now nothing is stopping them, although the devil is in the detail and we’re still not sure how much it will cost, whether special fees apply (or whether there are limits on data) or what other restrictions might be in place. Cuba is famous for opening up in some fronts with punitive or restrictive measures, so we’ll have to wait and see how much it will really benefit average Cubans, owners of a casa particular, a paladar or a café. Check back this space, we’ll keep you posted!