Cuba to begin full internet access for mobile phones

Men pass by a house with a sign reading

Men pass by a house with a sign reading"For Sale in Havana on Dec. 3 2018

Cubans will be able to access the internet on their mobile phones from Thursday, state-run telecoms monopoly ETECSA said, marking a milestone for what has always been one of the Western Hemisphere's least connected countries.

The cost will be out of reach for many Cubans as the average state wage is around $30 (£23) per month, and many people rely on remittances from relatives overseas or side gigs to get by.

Until now, Cubans have had access only to state-run email accounts on their phones.

The communist-governed island has one of the world's lowest rates of internet use but that has been expanding rapidly since Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro declared detente in 2014.

In a news show broadcast late on Tuesday, ETECSA executives announced a range of packages valid for 30 days from 600 MB for the equivalent of $AUD9.60 to 4 GB for $41.16.

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Cuba authorised home internet in 2017 and hundreds of public Wi-Fi connection points have opened in parks and plazas around the country.

Those prices are roughly in line with global standards but still out of reach for many Cubans who subsist on state salaries of aboutUS$30 a month. It then began the slow process of allowing citizens to get online. The number of sites has grown to more than 800.

Tania Velázquez, ETECSA Vice President, said the company would be rolling out the service over several days in order to avoid the network congestion that occurred during mobile internet testing earlier this year.

The government will not advocate a Chinese Firewall-style blocking of the Internet, but will instead block websites affiliated with U.S. funded websites such as USAID and National Endowment for Democracy, which have traditionally broadcasted anti-communist propaganda from Florida and others.

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