Google Works on Plan to Increase WiFi, Broadband Access in Cuba

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Coinciding with US President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated visit to Cuba this week, it has been announced on Monday that Google will provide WiFi and broadband services on the island.

So far details about the deal are sparse but it should help bring more Cubans online in a country with extremely low Internet penetration. According to Freedom House, Internet penetration in Cuba is somewhere between 5 and 30 percent.

Currently, Cubans use the country’s two state-owned ISPs to connect to the Internet, one of which – ETECSA – also owns the only mobile phone carrier in the country. Last month, ETECSA said it would allow Cubans in Old Havana to order service through connections operated by Chinese telecom operator Huawei as part of a pilot project. The government opened 35 paid public WiFi hotspots in summer 2015, which cost $2 US per hour to use.

Related: Cuba’s Complicated Internet History: A Timeline

The costs associated with connecting to the Internet in Cuba are restrictive; “most users can access only a government-controlled intranet rather than the global internet, with hourly connection costs amounting to 10 percent of the minimum monthly wage,” Freedom House reports.

Related Web Hosting Talk thread: Webhosting in Cuba

With Internet penetration so low in the country, there’s a lot of mixed information about how to actually connect to Internet in Cuba, however PC Mag published an article that outlines the “variety of crafty solutions” Cubans use to get online.

With more Internet connectivity in the country, there could be opportunity for hosting providers eventually – but for a country that just made computers legal in 2007, it is likely some time before every Cuban has a website.

Google is not alone in rushing to Cuba now that foreign investment restrictions have been lifted; companies in the hospitality space are also taking advantage, with Starwood Hotels, Marriott and Airbnb all opening up hotels and listings, respectively.

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