Internet in Cuba

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The internet in Cuba stagnated since its introduction in the late 1990s because of lack of funding,[1] tight government restrictions,[2] and the U.S. embargo, especially the Torricelli Act.[1][3] Starting in 2007 this situation began to slowly improve, with 3G data services rolling out island-wide in 2018, albeit through a government-monitored network.


In September 1996 (24 years ago) (1996-09), Cuba's first connection to the Internet, a 64 kbit/s link to Sprint in the United States, was established.[4] After this initial introduction, the expansion of Internet access in Cuba stagnated. Despite a lack of consensus on the exact reasons, the following appear to be major factors:

  • Lack of funding, owing to the poor state of the Cuban economy after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Cuban government's fear that foreign investment would undermine national sovereignty (in other words, foreign investors putting Cuba up for sale).[1][2]
  • The U.S. embargo, which delayed construction of an undersea cable, and made computers, routers, and other equipment expensive and difficult to obtain.[1]
  • According to Boris Moreno Cordoves, Deputy Minister of Informatics and Communications, the Torricelli Act (part of the United States embargo against Cuba) identified the telecommunications sector as a tool for subversion of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, and the necessary technology has been conditioned by counter-revolutionaries. The internet is also seen as essential for Cuba’s economic development.[3]

In 2009, President Obama announced that the United States would allow American companies to provide Internet service to Cuba, and U.S. regulations were modified to encourage communication links with Cuba.[1] The Cuban government rejected the offer, however, preferring to work instead with the Venezuelan government.[5] In 2009 a U.S. company, TeleCuba Communications, Inc., was granted a license to install an undersea cable between Key West, Florida and Havana, although political considerations on both sides prevented the venture from moving forward.[1]

About 30 percent of the population (3 million users, 79th in the world) had access to the internet in 2012.[6] Internet connections are through satellite leading the cost of accessing the internet to be high.[7] Private ownership of a computer or cell phone required a difficult-to-obtain government permit until 2008.[8] When buying computers was legalized in 2008, the private ownership of computers in Cuba soared—there were 630,000 computers available on the island in 2008, a 23% increase over 2007).[9] Owing to limited bandwidth, authorities gave preference to use from locations where Internet access is used on a collective basis, such as in work places, schools, and research centers, where many people have access to the same computers or network.[9]

The ALBA-1 undersea fiber-optic link to Venezuela was laid in 2011 and became operational for public users in January 2013.[10] This replaced a system which relied on the Intersputnik satellite system and aging telephone lines connecting with the United States. Total bandwidth between Cuba and the global internet before the cable was just 209 Mbit/s upstream and 379 downstream.[1]

In 2015, the Cuban government opened the first public wi-fi hotspots in 35 public locations. It also reduced prices and increased speeds for internet access at state-run cybercafes.[citation needed] As of July 2016 4,334,022 people (38.8% of the total population) were Internet users.[11]

By January 2018, there were public hotspots in approximately 500 public locations nationwide providing access in most major cities,[12] and the country relies heavily on public infrastructure whereas home access to the Internet remains largely inaccessible for the general population. In 2018, the state announced a plan to start offering mobile Internet by the end of the year.[13] That began in December 2018, and during 2019, limited 4G coverage began.


On July 29, 2019, Cuba legalized private wifi in homes and businesses, although one must obtain a permit to have access.[14]

As of December 6, 2018, Cubans can have full mobile Internet access provided by Cuba's telecommunications company, ETECSA, at 3G speeds. The roll out of the internet service took place from Thursday, December 6, to Sunday, December 9 to avoid congestion. ETECSA also announced different internet packages and their prices, ranging from 600 MB for 7 Cuban convertible pesos ($7) to 4 GB for 30 Cuban convertible pesos ($30). The cost is still high in a country where state salaries average $30 a month.[15][16]

One network link connects to the global Internet and is used by government officials and tourists, while another connection for use by the general public has restricted content. Most access is to a government-controlled national intranet and an in-country e-mail system.[17] The intranet contains the EcuRed encyclopedia and websites that are supportive of the government.[citation needed] Such a network is similar to the Kwangmyong used by North Korea, a network Myanmar uses and a network Iran has plans to implement.[18]

Starting on 4 June 2013 Cubans can sign up with ETECSA, the state telecom company, for public Internet access under the brand "Nauta" at 118 centers across the country.[19] The Juventud Rebelde, an official newspaper, said new areas of the Internet would gradually become available.

In early 2016, ETEC S.A. began a pilot program for broadband Internet service in Cuban homes, with a view to rolling out broadband Internet services in private residences.[20] And there are approximately 250 WiFi hotspots around the country.

In mid December 2016 Google and the Cuban government signed a deal allowing the internet giant to provide faster access to its data by installing servers on the island that will store much of the company's most popular content. Storing Google data in Cuba eliminates the long distances that signals must travel from the island through Venezuela to the nearest Google server.[21]


SNET (abbreviated from Street Network) is a Cuban grassroots wireless community network which allows people to play games or pirate movies by using interconnected network of households.[22][23][24]

With the passing of time and the rise of Wi-Fi technology, the networks grew and began to be grouped, socialization spaces arose, such as forums and a kind of minimum rules to organize themselves better. The SNET identity is simple, like the Red de la Calle, with its acronym in English.

The same accelerated growth, the mixture of interests and the desire to preserve what was achieved, forced the network to mature into a space where people of all ages, sex and with different interests participate and use the infrastructure created for study, work, recreation or simply communication with other people or share information instantly.


SNET is a community project that brings together all those people who promote the use of technologies with the aim of creating a positive impact on our society and developing a technological culture. Through the creation of spaces where the acquisition of knowledge is promoted, the socialization of its members via digital or physical means and healthy recreation, it is sought that they share spaces together, promote values such as responsibility, competitive spirit, joy, unity and grow in a general way as human beings from the experiences of others.

The network has a group of rules that dictates the behaviour of the community and in order to preserve order and keep it focused on its objectives.


  • Emphasise educational work that helps the computerisation of society, so that each individual has a greater culture of technologies and can support with a new focus on their work, the school and society in general.
  • The rescue and the formation of values in people.
  • Create spaces where you can carry out continuous events and friendly meetings.
  • Create a technological platform that helps in the work of professionals in the field of computing, automation, communications and in general to any professional who can take advantage of the network to enhance their work.
  • Promote Electronic Sports as another area where Cuba can compete internationally and obtain satisfactory achievements, showing us also as a way in which our mind is also trained.
  • Achieve the legal support that allows the improvement of the network itself, collaborate with public services and the organization of events with higher quality.
  • Promote good morals and morals of the Cuban people.

Government takeover[edit]

In May 2019, Cuba's Ministry of Communication (MINCOM) announced resolutions 98 and 99 limiting wireless transmission power and outdoor cables that made community networks like SNET illegal. Since SNET was the world's largest community network that did not have Internet access, implementation of the resolutions was postponed for 60 days for negotiations between SNET administrators and MINCOM. The negotiations have ended with a decision to transfer SNET's services and content to ETECSA, Cuba's government-monopoly ISP, and to provide access through Cuba's nationwide chain of 611 Youth Computer Clubs (YCCs).

The new regulations authorize people to install WiFi equipment in their homes and businesses in order to access the YCCs and public WiFi hotspots. The government says SNET "will grow with the increased infrastructure” of the YCCs and ETECSA and claims that the intent of Resolutions 98 and 99 is to expand access, but many in the SNET community see the move as government confiscation of their physical and intellectual property.[citation needed]


SNET is composed of the interconnection of many Nodes. A node is made up of small groups of people that interconnect in a network with each other and that are grouped by localities or municipalities mainly, depending on the geographic disposition.

Zone: It can be called zone to the union of several nodes, under the same identity. Sometimes it is also called a Big Node.

The structure of the Network Manager team is made up of:

Administration Team: Composed by the Administrators of each Node and Collaborators of the Network. They are in charge of:

  • Create, improve and enforce the regulation of the network.
  • Create the network documentation.
  • Plan and conduct changes in the network infrastructure.
  • Plan and conduct changes in the organizational structure.
  • Plan and establish services and configurations for network services.
  • Ensure that the network is used efficiently, while reaching the quality parameters of each service.
  • Lead, monitor or support the different work teams existing in the network.
  • Keeping all users informed of the various changes in the network or existing problems.


Cuba has been listed as an "Internet Enemy" by Reporters Without Borders since the list was created in 2006.[7] The level of Internet filtering in Cuba is not categorized by the OpenNet Initiative due to lack of data.[25]

The mobile internet in Cuba being provided by ETECSA, Cuba's telecommunications company, is mostly uncensored. However, a few sites funded by the U.S. government are blocked, including a few sites that are outspoken critics of the Cuban government lobbying for systematic change.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g The state of the Internet in Cuba, January 2011, Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University, January 2011
  2. ^ a b (in Spanish) "Encuentro con el Canciller Bruno Rodríguez y la agenda de diálogo de CAFE" Archived 2013-08-22 at the Wayback Machine ("Meeting with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez and the dialogue agenda CAFE"), 2 October 2012, accessed 25 May 2013. (English translation)
  3. ^ a b Juventud Rebelde (6 February 2009), Internet es vital para el desarrollo de Cuba (Internet is vital for the development of Cuba) (in Spanish), Cuban Youth Daily (English translation)
  4. ^ Larry Press (27 February 2011), Cuba's first Internet connection, The Internet in
  5. ^ "Wired, at last". The Economist. 3 March 2011.
  6. ^ "Percentage of Individuals using the Internet 2000-2012", International Telecommunications Union (Geneva), June 2013, retrieved 22 June 2013
  7. ^ a b "Internet Enemies: Cuba" Archived 2011-05-17 at the Wayback Machine, Reporters Without Borders, March 2011
  8. ^ "Changes in Cuba: From Fidel to Raul Castro", Perceptions of Cuba: Canadian and American policies in comparative perspective, Lana Wylie, University of Toronto Press Incorporated, 2010, p. 114, ISBN 978-1-4426-4061-0
  9. ^ a b "Cuba to keep internet limits". Agence France-Presse (AFP). 9 February 2009.
  10. ^ Marc Frank (22 January 2013). "Cuba's mystery fiber-optic Internet cable stirs to life". Reuters. Havana. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
  11. ^ "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency". Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  12. ^ "Cubans to gain access to mobile internet in 2018 - Xinhua |". Retrieved 2018-01-06.
  13. ^ Press, Europa (2018-01-03). "Internet móvil llega a Cuba este 2018". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-01-06.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "ETECSA, Internet y conectividad Internet". Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  16. ^ "Centers in Cuba Will Offer High-Priced Access to Web". The New York Times. AP. 13 December 2013.
  17. ^ "Country report: Cuba", World Factbook, U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, 27 September 2011
  18. ^ Christopher Rhoads and Farnaz Fassihi, May 28, 2011, Iran Vows to Unplug Internet, Wall Street Journal
  19. ^ del Valle, Amaury E. (27 May 2013). "Cuba amplía el servicio público de acceso a Internet" [Cuba expands public service Internet access]. Juventud Rebelde (in Spanish).
  20. ^ "Cuba says it will launch broadband home internet project". Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  21. ^ "Google has signed a deal to bring faster internet speeds to Cuba". Business Insider. 13 December 2013.
  22. ^ Crecente, Brian (2017-05-15). "Inside Cuba's secretive underground gamer network". Polygon. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  23. ^ Martínez, Antonio García. "Inside Cuba's DIY Internet Revolution". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  24. ^ Estes, Adam Clark. "Cuba's Illegal Underground Internet Is Thriving". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  25. ^ "ONI Country Profile: Cuba", OpenNet Initiative, May 2007

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