Relishing new Wi-Fi, Cuba's young clamor for more

Wed Sep 23, 2015 10:30am EDT
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By Andrew Cawthorne

HAVANA (Reuters) - Headphone-clad youths pore over phones on a street corner at dusk. A mother holds a laptop on Havana's seafront as her children cackle at seeing family abroad. Surreptitious vendors offer Internet cards at a markup.

Cuba's new Wi-Fi hotspots - 35 nationwide since July with more promised soon - are a sensation in a highly controlled country with one of the world's lowest Internet penetrations.

Yet young Cubans are not satisfied.

They want the Communist government to provide more, cheaper and less restricted Wi-Fi for Cuba's 11 million people.

"Everyone around the world has great Wi-Fi easily available these days. Why not us?" said Ariel Boggiano, 20, on Havana's La Rampa avenue after an hour's conversation with an uncle in Las Vegas via an app and a $2 card from the state phone company.

"We need more access, better prices ... And there are too many restrictions when you are surfing. There's not good access to news. And there's too much demand, it gets saturated fast," he added opposite a government sign reading: "Long Live Free Cuba!"

U.S. technology firms are keen to step in and help provide better service for Boggiano and friends, especially in the wake of diplomatic detente between Washington and Havana and an easing of some half-century-old U.S. trade restrictions.

Google executives have visited twice in the last two years.   Continued...

Girls use the internet to communicate at a Wi-Fi hotspot in Havana, September 22, 2015. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini