14ymedio, Havana, 8 September 2016 — Every day around 250,000 connections are recorded in the 1,006 internet public access points enabled on the island, according to data the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) released Thursday to the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth). Although the country has tripled the number of wireless access zones in parks and central streets in some cities, the density of service remains low for a population of 11.1 million people.
During the year, Cuba went from having 65 Wi-Fi zones to the current 200 in the month of September, according to ETECSA’s director of communications, Luis Dias. The provinces with the greatest increases were Havana (29 places), Pinar del Ril (19) and Granma (16). With the exceptions of Isla de la Juventud, Cienfuegos and Artemisa, the other provinces have installed more than 10 internet zones. The customers in the Wi-Fi zones complain about the poor infrastructure conditions in the parks and plazas for connecting, the congestion of users with the resultant slowing down of the access speeds, and the danger of being robbed of tablets, smart phones or laptops in public places.
Some 80% of the daily connections are made on a 2.4 GHz bandwidth, and barely 20% are made on the better quality 5 GHz bandwidth.
Cuba currently has 193 ETECSA navigation rooms, as well as 613 more located in different sites such as hotels, airports, Youth Computer and Electronic Clubs, Ministry of Health sites or Post Offices, among others, which account for about half the internet traffic.
Ana Maria Mendez Piña, senior specialist for Marketing Operations with ETECSA, told the official newspaper that in 2016 they have sold more than 590,000 Nauta permanent service accounts, plus 5.3 million hourly connection cards.
Cuba is one of the poorest countries in the rates of internet access. In 2015, 348 people out of every 1000 had Internet access, according to official figures, mainly due to the high cost of service (at two CUC* per hour), although Etecsa lowered its rates.
*Translator’s note: Two Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) is the equivalent of about $2 US, or as much as two days wages.