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In Cuba, Private Wi-Fi Has Been Legalised for the First Time Ever

The Cuban Ministry of Communication is looking to make progress of connectivity by legalising import of routers and setting up of private Wi-Fi networks, after introducing 3G mobile internet six months ago.

Shouvik Das | News18.com

Updated:May 30, 2019, 7:10 PM IST
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In Cuba, Private Wi-Fi Has Been Legalised for the First Time Ever
The Cuban Ministry of Communication is looking to make progress of connectivity by legalising import of routers and setting up of private Wi-Fi networks, after introducing 3G mobile internet six months ago.
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In a land far, far away from the discourse of the open internet, neutrality of communications and fair competition practices, the communist government of Cuba has, for the first time, legalised the usage of routers and private Wi-Fi networks in the island nation. So far, Cuban residents were allowed to use only government-established public internet hotspots, or alternatively, access the internet via the state-run internet cafes or the state-backed 3G internet service.

Till date, setting up a private Wi-Fi network was deemed to be an imprisonable offence. To account for this, the Cuban government had banned the import of any router in the country. So far, the Cuban citizen would hence rely on illegally imported Wi-Fi routers to set up networks that violated the pre-existent government regulations. This has been somewhat of an underground movement in Cuba With the lifting of this archaic ban, the state of connectivity in Cuba is bound to improve, although much would depend on the adjustment of data prices in accordance with the average monthly income.

The move marks a series of recent reforms in a nation that has been left way back in the sands of time. Now, the Cuban government is looking to make amends by slowly opening up the internet to the public, and using the power of communication as means of empowering its citizens. It was only in December 2018, that Cuba sanctioned access to mobile internet for its citizens, through a government-approved 3G internet network. Until then, the only means of going online was via government-established cyber cafes, which too have only been around since 2013.

It perhaps speaks volumes about the world of difference for freedom of communications in Cuba -- while internet cafes had already become near-obsolete in metropolitan India, a nation that has for the longest time fallen behind the curve of progress of connectivity, the very first (and considerably slow) public internet networks were introduced via cyber cafes in Cuba in 2013. Even now, although 3G mobile internet has been introduced, there are two factors that would create dispute in any of the leading nations of the world.

For one, they are all run and controlled by Etecsa, the government-run telecom operator, which is also the only network that is allowed to operate in Cuba. Secondly, the cost of connectivity is way too expensive -- a 30-day, 500MB 3G internet pack costs ~Rs 500 in Cuba, which is even worse if you consider that the average monthly income of a Cuban resident is ~Rs 3,500. Imagine spending a seventh of your monthly earnings on 500MB of 3G data. In India right now, a telecom pack offering 2.5GB 4G data per day, unlimited messaging and voice calling costs ~Rs 450 for about 75 days.

Nevertheless, the move is a positive one, although Cuba would remain cautious of letting foreign companies setting up shop in the Cuban communications infrastructure. Prior to Google signing a MoU with Cuba's Etecsa for better internet connectivity via public hotspots, the USA had attempted to set up a social network in Cuba, with the general intention of creating unrest and overthrowing the erstwhile Cuban government. With that having backfired, the present regime will remain cautious in terms of the potential of private communication networks in the country.

| Edited by: ---
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