Cuba's state telecom service, Etecsa, has approved the startup of Cuba's first public, open WiFi services, which began recently in Havana's central cultural center building. That means that, for the first time, Cubans have a place where they can have free, open use of the Internet, even though it will sometimes be slow and spotty, depending on user load and other conditions.
This remarkable event is being provided due to a Cuban artist who organized the effort, according to a March 12 report by The Associated Press.
"Dozens of youths have been flocking each day to the center run by famed artist Kcho, whose spokeswoman said state telecom Etecsa approved the move in a small but unprecedented loosening of Cuba's strict Internet regulations," the story reported. "The service is slow compared with what Internet users are accustomed to in much of the world. But connectivity-starved islanders said it's a boon that lets them access Facebook, read news of the world and communicate with friends and family overseas."
Kcho told the AP that the WiFi is available at his own expense through his personal Internet connection, which was previously authorized through the Cuban Ministry of Culture, with a speed of 2 mbps. "The artist said he opened up the hotspot to encourage Cubans to connect and familiarize themselves with the Internet," the story reported.
"This is an unusual thing, and it's only possible through the will to do it and absorb the costs," Kcho told AP. "It is expensive, but the benefit is tremendous. ... I have something that is great and powerful. I can share it, and I am doing so."
This is a remarkable development for Cubans and for the world, as it can bring Cubans closer to the rest of us and begin to help bridge the gulf between our governments.
"In the courtyard of his cultural center in western Havana, tech-savvy Millennials lounged in wicker chairs beneath a white canopy, tapping away on laptops and tablets," the story reported. "More were glued to smartphones as they sat on the sidewalk outside."
What a beautiful sight it must be, and I can't wait to see it with my own eyes in the next year or so.
Back in October 1992, I visited Cuba for 10 days with a group of American journalists, getting up-close views of the splendor of its people and of its cities and beaches, while also seeing the poverty, the outdated and worn-out infrastructure, and the lack of quality consumer goods just about everywhere I traveled.
A free and open WiFi connection is now available in Havana and Cubans are flocking to use it. Wow, just writing those words is exciting in March 2015.
This is a magical time in our global history and I so look forward to what will happen next as Cuba continues to open itself to the world.