VARADERO, Cuba – Cuban Communications Minister Maimir Mesa Ramos said on Tuesday that Cubans will soon enjoy “universal Internet access,” but warned that the Web must not be used as an “instrument” to destabilize the country.
The Cuban government has “the specific objective of developing the telecommunications infrastructure ... to achieve universal access and the productive use of information and communication technologies (ICT),” the minister said in a speech in the northwestern city of Varadero.
Tuesday was the first day of the 4th Latin American Telecommunications Congress here, which through Friday will gather public and private authorities to lay the political groundwork for the advancement of ICT in the region.
Mesa Ramos said that the Cuban government has the “will to develop the Internet,” albeit “in accord with our possibilities,” given that the country presently has an “insufficiency of infrastructure,” which the minister attributed to the US economic embargo.
Cuba is among the Western Hemisphere’s least-connected countries regarding the Internet, with just 4.5 million – 40 percent – of its citizens having Web access, according to government figures, and even that access is limited due to technical and economic restrictions.
The minister said that the government’s vision is for the Internet to be a “tool for achieving economic development, promoting peace and knowledge, eradicating poverty and social exclusion.”
But Mesa Ramos added that the Internet must not become “an instrument for promoting war, terrorism, interventionism, destabilization, subversion or unilateralism,” an apparent reference to the online campaigns by groups or governments that oppose the economic and political system that has prevailed in Cuba since the 1959 Revolution.
Since 2015, Havana pursued a program that has set up some 600 WiFi sites in town squares and public parks around the country, but the 1 CUC ($1) per hour connection fee puts it out of reach for most Cubans.
Likewise, since 2017, Cuba’s state-run Etecsa telecommunications monopoly has been marketing an online connection program in homes for $15-70, but that is out of economic reach for a broad swath of the public, among whom the average monthly salary is less than $30.