Cuba’s problems with telephone and internet access

telephone

“Communist Cuba may boast a doctor on every block and schools for all its children, but when it comes to telephones, computers and the Internet it lags behind other countries in the hemisphere, a government report showed on Thursday.” So begins Reuters’ report on the poor state of telecommunications in Cuba.

Cuba’s National Statistics Office has just released its 2008 telecommunications data and it shows a density of 12.6 telephones per 100 people, the lowest rate in the Caribbean region, according to the United Nations International Telecommunications Union. There are just 1.4 million telephones, fixed and mobile, in a country with a populations of 11.2 million inhabitants. (You can check out the date at www.one.cu/aec2008/esp/20080618_tabla_cuadro.htm.)

When it comes to computers the numbers are even worse. There are only 630,000 computers in the country—and many of those are believed to be “in government offices, health facilities and schools.” Only 13 percent of the Cuban population has access to the internet, according to the report—a number that does not mean unrestricted access to the world wide net, as many of those with internet access can only reach the government’s Intranet. There is no data in the report about unrestricted access to the internet, although we hear frequently from bloggers about the difficulties in gaining access and the government’s efforts to police access. In comparison, internet access n Jamaica is 53.27 per 100 inhabitants, with the Dominican Republic and Haiti having rates of access of 25.87 percent and 10.42 percent respetively.

“I would love one day to have a telephone, computer and Internet at home, but I see little prospects for now,” 23-year-old Yenisey Peraza, a Cuban dancer who recently bought a cellphone for emergencies, told Reuters.

President Raul Castro, after he took over from an ailing Fidel in February 2008, allowed Cubans to freely buy and use cellphones. However, they can only pay for them in hard currency equivalent convertible pesos, which are not available to all Cubans. The government pegs the Cuban convertible currency (CUC) at $1.08. A cellular telephone line costs 30 CUCs and the cheapest cellular phone is priced at 60 CUCs. A minute’s use of a cell phone calling out or receiving averages half a CUC, or more than half a day’s state wages, while a 160 character text message costs 0.16 CUC to send. About 60 percent of Cuba’s population has some access to convertible pesos through money sent to them by relatives abroad, tourism tips, state bonuses, or the black market.

For the complete report go to http://www.reuters.com/article/internetNews/idUSTRE55P0OJ20090626

Photo by Edward Elias at http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/photo822947.htm http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/photo822947.htm

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