The Internet in Cuba

We went to Cuba for a couple of weeks. I couldn’t find much reliable, up to date information on the web, so this is the current internet situation in one of the least connected countries on Earth (from a non-Spanish speaking tourist’s perspective).

Home internet

Home broadband is pretty much non-existent, though that could change soon. The state-owned telecoms operator ETECSA ran a home broadband pilot program for 2000 households in Havana late last year.

As of a couple of weeks ago, there are 358 paying customers for the (expensive) fledgling new service.

Nobody we met had home broadband.

One person we met had some very slow dialup at home (also crazy expensive). Another had recently installed a big wifi antenna on their roof so they could siphon a nearby hotel’s public wifi hotspot.

Everybody we saw using the web on a desktop computer went straight to mbasic.facebook.com. Missing images and broken styles were the norm. Windows XP and ancient versions of Internet Explorer are alive and well.

It will be interesting to see if the open web we know & love will be able to gain a foothold as more Cubans get online, or whether Cuba will follow fellow latecomer Myanmar’s lead, where Facebook is the internet.

Mobile internet

There is no publicly available 3G/4G. Apparently Cubans can access a weird 2G email only thing, but nobody we met had it.

Public wifi hotspots are king

There are public ETECSA hotspots in many main plazas, parks and hotels, so most of those places are full of people, locals & tourists alike, standing around looking at their phones.

To use it, you buy a one hour card for 2 CUC (2 USD). When we were there we saw a notice that prices were changing to 0.50 CUC for “national” websites and 1.50 CUC for “international” websites.

We only used it once - it was pretty slow, some things worked OK, but any Apple services (iCloud, iMessage, FaceTime) as well as Skype and a few other data-hogging applications appeared to be blocked.

Cuba’s “offline internet” is real and still going strong

El Paquete Semanal - a weekly delivery of a terabyte of stuff on an external hard drive - is how several Cubans we met access movies, TV shows, music videos, magazine PDFs, recipes and Wikipedia pages.

For 4 CUC a month, someone visits your house once a week with a hard drive and you copy everything you want.

We weren’t there for long so maybe I missed something or got some of this wrong? Let me know 👇

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