The Cuban government has granted approval to contemporary artist Kcho to open the country’s first public wireless hub at his cultural center.
Kcho, who has close ties to the Cuban government, is operating the hub using his own, government-approved internet connection, and paying approximately $900 per month to run it.
Only an estimated 5% – 25% of Cubans have any type of internet service.
That is because internet access is incredibly expensive.
For instance, an hour of internet access at a cafe can cost $4.50 – nearly a week’s wages for the average Cuban.
Kcho told the Associated Press he decided to offer free internet at the centre, which opened in western Havana in January, in order to encourage Cubans to familiarize themselves with the internet.
The Cuban government has expressed a keen desire to upgrade its dilapidated or non-existent telecommunications infrastructure.
Although Cuba’s connectivity to the internet was greatly expanded with the completion of an undersea cable between the island and Venezuela in January 2013, the country still has some of the lowest internet connectivity rates in the world.
On January 15, the US announced new rules that ease long-running sanctions against Cuba. A trade embargo has been in place since 1962.
A key part of that decision by the Obama administration was a stated desire to help boost telecommunications on the island.
Last week, Cuba’s state telecom agency Etecsa said it had established a direct telephone connection between the US and Cuba for the first time in 15 years, as relations between the two countries continue to thaw.