Flat Rate Internet in Cuba: Between $52 and $1,000 a Month, and Only for Programmers

Etecsa office in Candelaria, where Nauta Hogar [home internet service] is sold. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | 24 March 2021 — The Cuban Telecommunications Company, announced on Tuesday the first flat rate for web browsing for private workers on the Island. The new ADSL Internet Service, managed by the state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa, is exclusively intended for self-employed persons with a computer equipment programmer license (PEC).

On its website, Etecsa assures that the measure will strengthen “the Cuban industry of computer applications and services” and aims to improve “the performance and functioning” of private workers.

According to the legal definition, the computer equipment programmer is one who “develops, markets, implements, deploys and provides technical support for computer programs, applications and services through contracts with natural or legal persons.” Most of those who have that license on the Island are dedicated to programming software, creating applications and installing programs.

The number of people who will be able to access the service is difficult to know because the PEC license, which began to be issued with the economic reforms promoted by Raúl Castro in the past decade, stopped being offered in 2017 when the Government launched a process to regulate and order self-employment.

It was only in February of this year that the reopening of PEC licenses was announced but, so far and according to testimonies collected by 14ymedio, the new issuance of licenses is paralyzed until the new list of private occupations comes into operation.

The flat rate service for programmers will allow Internet connection access through asymmetric digital subscription line (ADSL) technology. “This offer includes the installation and contracted data service through the use of digital links that permanently interconnect a computer network to other networks, in accordance with the quality specifications that are defined,” explains Etecsa in its statement.

The connection speed will depend on the technical conditions required by the businesses, the service does not have time restrictions and includes the option of enabling international mail.

The prices vary according to the internet speed required: 512/128 Kbps, at 1,250 pesos per month, until reaching the maximum that is offered, which is 6,144 / 1,024 Kbps at a cost of 24,125 pesos; this latter is the equivalent of 1,000 USD per one month of service.

With regards to contracting for Nauta Hogar (home internet service), the method is postpaid and the self-employed person must have a Nauta account. Should the individual not have an account, “one is enabled for free and it can be recharged by any of the established routes.”

Etecsa clarifies that the Nauta Hogar will have a connection speed of 2,048 / 1,024 Kbps and the enablement will cost 250 Cuban pesos (CUP). The monthly price will depend on the service that is contracted: 240 hours for 2,000 pesos (8.30 CUP / hour) or 480 hours for 3,000 pesos (7.20 CUP / hour). The additional hourly rate for the two offers will cost 12.50 pesos.

Criticisms of the services announced by Etecsa have not been long in coming. Most of the comments on the official Cubadebate site lament the high prices of the flat rate and the requirement that one have a PEC license to be eligible to apply for it.

“The offer is appreciated, the price greatly excessive taking into account the international costs for a higher speed service,” comments an Internet user by the name of Pedro. An opinion shared by reader Raly: “Why doesn’t Etecsa make special offers for teachers and students who need it so much in these days of connectivity? Why don’t they sell us phones in the currency with which they pay us?”

“How much revenue should a programmer have for any of these offers to be profitable?” Asks Sixto, another commentator. “These offers could be profitable for a group of programmers of between three and five, associated as SMEs. But small companies have not been approved. These small companies are key to innovation,” he adds.

Self-employed persons interested in Etecsa’s offers should make the request by email to offers.tcp@etecsa.cu. The documents to be sent are: photocopies of the authorization card to carry out work on behalf of a PEC and an identity card, a signed request specifying the connectivity package to be contracted for and, “in case the interested party is not the owner of the telephone line where the service will be installed, there must be written authorization from its owner.” After the request is approved, they will inform the client which office to go to to sign the contract.

Access to a flat rate has been one of the demands most repeated in recent years by customers of the state monopoly. The #BajenLosPreciosDeInternet [Lower Internet Prices] campaign reached its peak in mid-2019. In its first edition, in just 24 hours, the hashtag became a trending topic on the island.

Etecsa responded by labeling the promoters of the campaign as “mercenaries” and blamed the US embargo for the high prices of services.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.