Cuba to test public WiFi for the first time

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Cuba, known for its tight control over internet access, plans to make WiFi available for the first time to the general public. The country’s second largest city will be used to trial the service. One hour online will cost $4.50.

"Santiago (de Cuba) has been picked by Etecsa to test WiFi services late this month," the Union of Cuban Journalists’ website announced.

Users in Etesca will be able to access the internet via smartphones, tablets and laptops. Speeds will reach one megabyte per second at the start of the project, and will cost the same as local internet points at $4.50 an hour.

Up until now WiFi in Cuba has only been available for the government, universities, public institutions, hotels and restaurants. Nevertheless, cases of illegal connection to wireless networks are common.

Reuters / Mal Langsdon

By special permission from the Ministry of Communications, prominent Cubans are allowed to use wireless connections at home.

However, Cubans are able to surf the net in special public spots called Nauta, which first appeared in June 2013. Currently, there are over 146 locations across the country, according to Cubanet.

The services are provided on a pay-by-hour basis, with a tariff of $4.50 an hour and $1.50 for email only. Cubans make on average $20 per month, so the price is considered rather high.

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According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), only 3.4 percent of homes in Cuba had internet access in 2013, which makes it one of the countries with the smallest number of connections in the world.