Latin America & Caribbean

Cuba plans to install wi-fi on Havana's iconic Malecon seafront

Cubans use the internet via public wi-fi in Havana (05 September 2016) Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hotspots enable Cubans to enjoy much better internet access and a higher-speed connection than most have been used to

Plans to install wi-fi along 8km of Havana's iconic Malecon seafront have been announced by the Cuban government.

The move will make the popular area for tourists and young people into the largest hotspot on the island.

Only about 5% of Cubans enjoy web access at home and the government still heavily restricts content, although many social media sites are available.

Since last year the government has installed dozens of wi-fi hotspots in public areas, charging $2 an hour.

Although the price of wi-fi access in public places has recently dropped, it is still prohibitive for the vast majority of Cubans. The average state salary remains about $25 (£19) a month.

But for better off Cubans, the move has proved popular.

The government said last year it had 65 wi-fi hotspots in service and expected 80 more to open before the end of 2016.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Malecon seafront is one of the most famous areas of Havana
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Cuban government blames the US for the poor state of telecoms infrastructure

The hotspots enable Cubans to enjoy much better internet access and a higher-speed connection than most have been used to.

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Entire families and crowds of young people armed with smart phones, tablets and laptops can be seen at all hours of the day and night hovering around the wi-fi hotspots to get in touch with family and friends in Florida and other parts of the world.

Internet services are provided by state-owned telecoms company Etecsa.

Access to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter is available at the hotspots - but opposition sites are blocked.

Yet despite the recent improvements, the island still has some of the world's worst connectivity.

That's why the vast majority of Cubans rely on their weekly dose of "Paquete Semanal", an offline selection of material compiled by unidentified curators and delivered every week to subscribers via an unofficial network of distributors using portable hard drives.

Dissidents accuse the government of not providing affordable home internet access for political reasons.

The Cuban government blames the US for the poor state of telecoms infrastructure, which it says is caused by the American economic embargo imposed in the 1960s.

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