Salons or Not, Cyberspace Is Still a Distant Place for Most Cubans
By VICTORIA BURNETT
Published: July 9, 2013
HAVANA — By the standards of many Cubans, Lazaro Noa García is an adept internaut. He e-mails his daughter in Mexico a couple of times a week at a cybersalon in an upscale suburb, and checks soccer scores and news on Yahoo.
Until last month, though, the closest Mr. García, 59, had been to cyberspace was the painfully slow e-mail service at his local post office. Then on June 4, Etecsa, the state telecom company, opened 118 Internet salons around the island, expanding public Web access — by a fraction, at least — in what is regarded as the least wired country in the Western Hemisphere. Mr. García, a retired military officer, immediately signed up.
“This is like a Three Kings’ Day gift,” Mr. García said of his newfound Internet access, referring to the Jan. 6 holiday when people dressed as the Magi hand out goodies to children.
But as gifts go, it is extremely expensive, he said. At $4.50 an hour, a session at one of the new cybersalons costs almost as much as the average state worker earns in a week, prompting many Cubans to wonder whether President Raúl Castro is serious about bringing the Internet to the masses, or just playing for time.
“At this price, hardly anyone is going to be using it,” said Mr. García, who figured he could afford to buy an hour or two a week because his daughter helped him out and he had just sold his house.
Cuba’s limited Internet access is a source of festering resentment among Cubans, millions of whom have never been online. Some people — medics, for example, or journalists — qualify for a dial-up connection at home. Others use pirated connections, rent time on a neighbor’s line or log on at a hotel, where they pay about $8 an hour.
Wilfredo González Vidál, vice minister of communications, in an interview with the official news media in May, assured that “the market will not regulate access to knowledge in our country.” But Rogelio Moreno Díaz responded in his acerbic blog, Bubusópia, that this was “the final insult to the public’s intelligence.”
See full article at: