Cuba’s ICT infrastructure continues to expand, with the communist island recently unveiling its first Wi-Fi hotspot at a cultural center in Havana run by local artist Kcho.
According to the BBC, Kcho is paying approximately US$900 per month to operate the wireless hub using his own government-approved Internet connection.
But the deal has exposed a key hurdle hindering the expansion of broadband infrastructure in the country. According to reports, the artist had to seek approval from Etecsa to launch the Wi-Fi connection.
The state-owned telecom firm appears to have monopolized the telecom market but a more competitive telecom environment will be critical for Cuba if it wants to compete internationally and attract foreign direct investment. Moreover, it would be a prerequisite for businesses considering a move into the communist island.
Etecsa has promised to set up about 136 cyber cafes across the island and cut Internet service prices by half by April this year, but for now, home Internet service is reserved for state officials and foreigners, while most Cubans turn to government offices, hotels and cybercenters for access.
Kcho, according to the Associated Press, will offer free Wi-Fi at the center in order to encourage Cubans to familiarize themselves with the Internet.
The BBC says a number of illegal Wi-Fi networks are already operating in some neighborhoods of Havana and that some informal users could be accessing business Wi-Fi connections.
The United States has permitted the exportation of communications equipment to Cuba and the construction of a $31 million fiber-optic cable connecting Cuba to Florida. U.S. company IDT Domestic Telecom also recently established a direct telephone connection between the two countries.