Cuba is launching a pilot program that will bring broadband internet access to homes in two Havana neighborhoods, the country's state-run telecommunications company announced on Sunday. As the Associated Press reports, the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) said it will allow Cubans to order broadband service through Huawei, marking an important development for one of the world's least connected countries. Cafes, bars, and restaurants will also be allowed to order fiber-optic service under the program, though ETECSA did not say when it will launch or how much access will cost.
Some Cubans use dial-up connections or mobile plans to access state-run web services, but broadband access has been largely restricted to diplomats or employees of foreign companies, and prices remain prohibitive. The government launched public Wi-Fi hotspots in Havana last year, and ETECSA on Sunday said 30 more hotspots would be launched in 2016. The hotspots offer web access for about $2 an hour, though that's still a steep price in a country where the average monthly salary is around $25.
Cuba has made incremental moves to broaden internet access since US President Barack Obama moved to normalize diplomatic relations with the communist island nation in 2014. Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lifted restrictions on US telecoms operating in the country, allowing them to offer voice and data services without obtaining FCC approval. US companies like Netflix and Airbnb have also expanded to Cuba in recent months.