"Wi-fi is Killing My Business" / Cubanet, Pablo Gonzalez
Cubanet, Pablo Gonzalez, Havana, 31 October 2016 — "I work as a network
administrator in a company in Havana, but everyone knows that in this
country the salary is not enough to live on, you always have to have
something under the table. So the bakers steal the flour and oil to sell
it on the street, and I use the internet in the same way. The problem is
that I am losing my clients thanks to the wifi zones," says the young
computer expert, who – like everyone interviewed for this story –
doesn't want to reveal his name.
With no viable way to access the internet in Cuba, for many years Cubans
had to find alternate ways to surf the web with the help of the black
Computer experts working in state businesses with internet connections
managed to share the connections with users "on the street" for a price
that ranged from around 70 to 100 dollars a month.
It wasn't until 2014 that ETECSA (the state phone company) opened
navigation rooms for a price of $4.50 US an hour [more than a week's pay
for the average worker], and in mid-2015 wifi zones were opened for two
dollars an hour – the current price of internet in Cuba, where the
average monthly wage is now about $23 US.
These days, the business of selling dial-up internet connections (an
obsolete technology with 56k modems and a phone line) continues, but
it's losing ground with the opening of the wifi zones.
Another computer expert talked about his experience in this business: "I
worked for many years as a computer expert in a trading company that had
internet access. There was one computer connected to the internet and it
was inside an iron cage with a key. The authorized person had to leave
their name on an incident sheet that was next to the PC keyboard. They
also had to write down anything unusual that happened while they were
He continued: "Over the years they were giving access to other computers
within the company. So I had access to the internet and started to share
it under the table. Although the connection was dial-up, my customers
were willing to pay 100 dollars a month, or 20 if it was only for
international email. I always had between 5 and 10 users. With the
earnings I was at least able to clothe my family and eat well."
Asked why he stopped working for the state, he responded, "I had to quit
because I started to lose customers to the ETECSA wifi zones, and the 30
dollar a month salary they were paying me wasn't even enough for
transportation. Big surprise, people prefer expensive and fast internet
to expensive and slow internet."
"I want ETECSA to stop opening wifi zones. It's killing my business," he
Each state work center with Internet access is subject to "strict
compliance" laws and must prepare on operating document where the
working and monitoring is explained. Despite this, and their business
being in decline, many network administrators still risk losing their
jobs to sell the internet illegally.
Cuba has a connectivity rate of 5%, which is reduced to 1% for
broadband. It is the country with the lowest rate of connectivity in
Latin America. In addition, Internet access has always been a delicate
issue with extreme supervision by the government. In the late '90s when
some companies had to have it to do their work, the control mechanisms
Meanwhile, the service currently sold by the state leaves much to be
desired among the island's netizens, due to its high price and poor
performance; however it is 50 times faster than the archaic dial-up.
Infomed, the information network for health professionals, was the first
institution to provide access to international email and domestic
websurfing. It began more than 20 years ago, only for doctors, and in
2015 included internet access after the opening of the Wi-Fi zones.
But this is also sold, and currently Infomed accounts have a black
market value of 25 to 30 dollars. Acquiring an account is relatively
easy, as they can be found on the classified ads site Revolico.
"I paid $25 a month for an Infomed account, but since they started the
Nauta email service, I dropped it. It is better to have the mail on
mobile, it can be checked from anywhere, I save more money and I can
speak on wifi through IMO, which cannot be done with a telephone modem
connection," said an elderly lady who no longer wants to use a dial-up
connection, even from the comfort of her own home.
Source: "Wi-fi is Killing My Business" / Cubanet, Pablo Gonzalez –
Translating Cuba -