The Free Territory of Skype / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

An article has been added to the saga against information technologies maintained by the official press. Last Thursday a report against phone fraud left many Juventude Rebelde (Rebel Youth) readers feeling that cellphones are a source of endless problems. To the barrage of accusations about the destabilizing plans that arrive via text messages, and the collapse of networks caused by titles that travel from one cellphone to another, we can now add the “personal profit” of those who use tricks to pay less for a call or for a text message abroad.

Every crime of fraud or embezzlement is legally and morally contemptible. However, the context in which these infractions are committed should be taken into account. We live under an absolute state monopoly of telecommunications. The only phone company in the country, ETECSA, has no competitors in its field and thus sets its prices much higher than the tariffs common in the rest of the world. A one minute call overseas costs the average worker about two days wages. With such a large population having emigrated, it’s easy to imagine the Island’s need to communicate with the rest of the world.

To this must be added the limited and scarce Internet access. Without any new facilities for services such as Skype, many prefer to resort to fraudulent practices rather than to give up calling other parts of the world. Penalizing the offenders who resort to tricks like voice bypass will not resolve the problem. I don’t imagine a lady in her sixties, with a son who emigrated, risks being fined for phone fraud when she can pay barely pennies to call via the Internet. Pushing a population into crime, and then condemning them for engaging in it, seems to me, at the very least, pure cynicism.

Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 31 May 2014 | 14ymedio