Imagine a world that prohibits you from logging onto your Facebook? No status updates, no friendly photos. Imagine needing permission to check your daily deals and emails, even from a mobile device. Image if Internet was banned.
Welcome to Cuba.
Broadband Internet is restricted in Cuba, leaving the small population of Internet smugglers to agonize over the long wait time for an email to load. Businesses and government operations are greatly affected by the lack of connection to “the outside world,” but clearly Castro had other important things going on.
The United Nations International Telecommunications Union rated Cuba’s local telecommunications as the worst in Latin America. It was also a top motive for Cubans to want to leave the country.
According to the National Statistics Office, in 2010, 1.8 million Cubans had access to Internet. Just last year, that number climbed to 2.6 million, although their online access was strictly through government-affiliated ventures such as computer clubs, schools and offices. The number of mobile users also increased during that same span of time, from 1 million to 1.3 million users. These statistics are drastic considering cell-phone use was only permitted in 2008—there were only 330,000 users that year.
Using black market passwords, Cubans could gain Internet access through touristy hotels, which generally accounted for a day’s pay rate— $5.00-$12.00 dollars an hour to use the web.
A report available through the website Information and Communications Technology in Cuba 2011 showed that there were only 783,000 personal computers in the country, and 50% of those were government-owned.
Satellite television is also strictly prohibited without special permission from the government. Neighborhood raids are very common in Cuba, as authorities regularly check homes for smuggled satellite dishes.
Officials deny all details surrounding online access and ownership of mobile devices, saying that information is misleading and that the country encourages social use. The United States has become their scapegoat, blaming our country for denying access to underwater cables. In 2011, a fiber optic cable was provided to Cuba, offering speeds up to 3,000 times faster for mobile and Internet use. Currently, the cable is still non-operative, and government officials have denied explanation.