Everybody must have heard that Cuba is changing. Even if the change is slow, there is something I was impressed with when I arrived back in October. I saw many Cubans sitting and standing in the front of the hotels with their smartphones. No, I wasn’t impressed that they have smartphones, because I saw them using them before, mostly for games, listening to music and taking pictures, as there was no proper internet connection on the island. So yes, I was impressed that they are using internet.
If you are asking why, the answer is simple. I don’t know any other country where it is so hard to get connected. Not so many years ago, there was internet, but only for foreigners, Cubans were not allowed to use it, because the government was afraid what would happen if they found out that there is a different world outside of Cuba… It took time, but in the end they found out. It was impossible to keep them away from the „western world“ and lately the government decided to open internet for everyone. Rumors say that they finally got connected to the internet cable that was going from Venezuela.
Three years ago the only way was to find a really good hotel, buy super expensive card (10-12€ for one hour) and use the extremely slow and old computer on the reception. Once it took me half hour to upload a photo on Facebook.
This spring I was already using Wi-Fi. I knew that in three hotels in Havana and in one in Varadero they have it. Yes, Wi-Fi only in four hotels or so in the entire country! It was still very slow and still very expensive.
The reason why the situation was so bad is that Cuba wasn’t connected to the underwater internet cable that belongs to the USA, so the only internet they were using was the expensive satellite one. It’s not that they wouldn’t like to, but Cuba is still under economic embargo and like that it’s not possible.
HOW WE ARE GETTING CONNECTED IN CUBA:
Now the things are improving. Internet got something quicker and cheaper (It’s relative to say what is cheap in Cuba, because the average salary is aprox. 15€ per month). There are hotspots around the cities as well. Of course not for free, first you need to get your one hour card from the telecommunication company (ETECSA) – that means wait in the line for a longer while until your turn comes; or you can buy it from somebody selling it on the street – obviously for higher price. The battle is not over yet after you got your card, because now you have to hope, that the connection isn’t failing right now. After you were lucky and you got logged in, you try to answer all your emails and messages and send all the photos in one hour.
Next to my house there is a park – hotspot. At any time of the day there are people sitting, standing, bringing chairs and tables from house, looking on the screens. Sometimes I just stop there and listen. I know that I shouldn’t, but the discussions they are having are more than interesting.
There is a family and mother says to her daughter to greet her little cousin in Miami, the girl is smiling and waving. Maybe she will even show her the dance they learned in kindergarten. Another girl my age is skyping with her friend that left the country few years ago. She is jealous that the friend is sitting in her house on a sofa and that she has to stand in the park, but she is happy that at least they can talk. Woman that is next to me asks me to help her to send an email to her husband that went to Colombia, she tells me that she didn’t learn yet how to do it. There is as well a young man. He is looking sad at the screen and is telling to somebody on the other side “Me muero de ganas por besarte!” – “The desire to kiss you is killing me!”