Here in America affordable and extremely available access to the Internet is a luxury many of us tend to take for granted. With our upcoming trip to Cuba getting closer every day, we decided to look into an issue in Cuba that will affect many of our fans going on the trip with us: the tightly controlled Internet access. Though Cuba has one of the most restricted accesses to the Internet in the world, characterized by a low number of connections, limited bandwidth, censorship, and high cost, there is still hope for those who travel to the country! Being knowledgeable of “the island of the disconnected” will of course make a trip to Cuba less of a shock for those who are technology savvy and dependent. We’ve compiled five need-to-know facts about the Internet in Cuba:
- Finding access is the toughest hurdle: approximately 25.6 percent of Cubans have internet access (most of which are government officials, academics, doctors, journalist, and the upper-class). Whereas in America Wi-Fi can be found on almost every corner and in every shop and hotel, this is not the case in Cuba. If you find a shop that offers Internet access it normally isn’t for free. In most cases you’ll pay between $6-$10 for a hour’s worth of access. You also need to be aware that the speed of connection will mostly likely be slow.
- Though there are obstacles, there are creative workarounds: When Cuban people do want information from the Internet the most popular way to gain this information is for people to download online articles onto thumb drives, then pass them around to friends and family. Those who have a cell phone can also use alternative ways to use social networks such as texting or “speak-to-tweet” systems. Many activists in Cuba use these methods of communication. If you want to use the “speak-to-tweet” system you can call a phone number in the U.S. and record an anonymous message that gets automatically converted to text and shared on Twitter and/or Facebook. These calls can possibly cost up to $1 per call depending on your cellular plan.
- Connection may be hard to come by, but there’s not much censorship: Since not many people have internet access in Cuba, the government doesn’t censor much, unlike countries like China. Most newspapers are available online and so are social networks Facebook and Twitter, though YouTube is not. The government only cracks down on blogs that are anti-Cuban government focused.
- The Cuban government is very present on the Internet: The government may limit Internet access, but not for themselves. Students from the University of Computer Sciences (UCI) of la Havana make up a 1,000-strong cyber militia that promotes the government of Cuba and has the objective of discrediting its critics.
- There are no cutting-edge surveillance systems: In many countries such as America our government has the most up-to-date surveillance systems; yet though the Cuban government seems as though they would also, there are only two Internet providers both state owned so therefore they don’t have to have the most relevant technology. Also, when using an Internet café Cubans have to sign in with their ID so anonymous use of the Internet is nearly impossible.
Cuba may not be the most perfect country in the whole world, but it is one worth visiting. Its beauty and history are worth getting passed a few days without internet access. Knowing what you’re walking into will help prepare any traveler for a smooth and untroublesome journey!
Drop us a comment if you have any thoughts on Cuba and the Internet, we’d love to hear what you think!