Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Telecom developments

There’s no doubt that Cuban government policy limits access to the Internet, but I think it’s generally agreed that even if policies were different, wider access would be problematic because of bandwidth limitations. Figuratively, Cuba needs more pipes connecting to the net, or a fatter pipe, to allow more users to have access at normal speeds.

If the government were to allow multiple Internet service providers, that would help, but that’s not going to happen.

A fatter pipe is on the way, in the form of a new fiber optic cable connection from Venezuela that is expected to be on line in 2010.

So how will this change Cubans’ access to the net?

A deputy communications minister, Boris Moreno, told AFP the priority will continue to be “to privilege collective access,” which I take to mean workplaces as opposed to individuals and residences. Later, communications minister Ramiro Valdes was interviewed by Reuters and his message was a little different: “conceptually,” there’s no policy against broader access, he said, and the “restrictions are technological and economical.” As opposed to ideological, we can guess.

We’ll see.

Meanwhile, access is definitely increasing in another telecom service: cell phones.

Juventud Rebelde ran an article on cellular phone service in Cuba February 10. From interviews with executives of Etecsa, the state telecom monopoly, the article says:

  • Etecsa recognizes that consumer prices are high, and there’s an intention to lower prices, but no indication when or by how much.

  • “Teléfonos Fijos Alternativos” (“alternative fixed-line phones”) are wireless phones installed in private homes or “centros agentes” and available to the community, serving as “a kind of public phone.” They account for 30 percent of wireless lines and 80 percent of wireless traffic. In effect, this service is subsidized by hard-currency customers: Cubans and foreigners who pay for regular cell phone service, and tourists who pay roaming fees.

  • Cuba does not have “calling party pays,” and maintains the practice of charging customers per minute for calls that they receive. Etecsa says that this practice ensures that consumers limit the length of their calls – otherwise, calls from land lines to cell phones would tie up the wireless network.

  • 133,000 wireless lines were added in 2008, including 40,000 in December in response to a reduction in activation fees.

  • The average customer uses 36-40 minutes per month and is billed 19-20 convertible pesos.

9 comments:

leftside said...

How would having another ISP help things if the the problem is bandwidth?

Phil Peters said...

ok--another ISP that would have its own satellite or cable connection to the outside to increase Cuba's total capacity

Russell said...

Weird to read about this over a Cuban internet connection while Allison sends a text message.

I've heard that an hour of net here costs about 10 CUC. So few Cubans can afford that. I don't know if more bandwidth would mean more access points and thus reduce cost. Otherwise most normal Cubans will not be able to communicate with each other (and people abroad) nor access alternative sources of information.

Thanks for another good post.

leftside said...

Another ISP trying to undercut the Government's prices is just not feasible for the country. It would undermine their entire telecommunications policy whereby the hard currency possessors subsidize the steady expansion of fair, public usage for everyone else in pesos.

I think the fiber optic line from Venezuela is probably costing a lot - and the $$ has to be re-cooped. Cuba would love to provide free bandwidth to everyone, but there simply will still not be enough capacity to do that. As such, policies need to be well thought out.

Anonymous said...

Golly gee, I have to wonder, if the Internet had been invented during Mussolini's era, whether the Italian government would have effectively banned access to it on "technical grounds," or some other pretext? Phil, you are a smart guy, but sometimes you are just naive.

Anonymous said...

Leftside said:
"Cuba would love to provide free bandwidth to everyone, but there simply will still not be enough capacity to do that. As such, policies need to be well thought out"

I needed a good laugh today and this guy just provided it. Cuba will provide free Internet access for everyone. Now that, is really a good joke.

leftside said...

Cuba tries to provide every service for free or very low cost. So why is that funny?

Karamchand said...

Primero, es una mentira la falta de cobertura o estructura para proveer servicio de Internet a los cubanos comunes y corrientes, los ciudadanos. Cables de fibra óptica, propiedad de corporaciones chinas, pasan cercanos a Cuba, la conexión sería mucho más barata que la inventada por Venezuela. Actualmente, rentan lineas ADSL y de modems a empresas extranjeras en CUC o moneda a la cual no tiene acceso el cubano de apie, además, en la realidad, hay cubanos deseosos de pagar por el internet, pero está prohibido para nacionales. Si realmente quisieran permitir Internet, se conectarían a a los cables existentes o permitirían el acceso a cubanos, la prohibición es aquí lo que evidencia la dictadura reinante ebntre otras, como por ejemplo, impedir acceso a páginas de opositores o a la de Yoani Sánchez. La intención del cable desde Venezuela, es controlar como siempre lo han querido hacer, el acceso del cubano a la información. De hecho, existe una fibra óptica nacional, pero destinada exclusivamente a los órganos de inteligencia, fuerzas armadas, dedicados a reprimir a los cubanos.
Otro aspecto que demuestra el carácter de la dictadura, está en el costo de las líneas fijas, 300 minutos libres solamente, 10 minutos diarios, insuficientes para un país donde el transporte como medio de comunicación, es terrible, lo que origina el uso extensivo del teléfono fijo para hacer "visitas"; es curioso que se cobren las llamadas realizadas desde móviles a lineas fijas, en un acápite aparte, demostrativo a su vez, de la ignorancia de la realidad y los derechos ciudadanos. Los contratos, al ser los servicios y la producción monopolios del estado, constituyen verdaderas espadas de Dámocles pendiendo del ciudadano, con derechos divinos para los que prestan el servicio e irrenunciables obligaciones para quienes lo reciben, so pena de perder servicios que son otorgados por selectividad.
Por todo lo anterior, usted leftside es un descarado al mentir en este sitio; no provee grátis ningún servicio, y aquellos que no le queda más remedio a la dictadura que suplir, los controla canallescamente. Es una dictadura y por tanto, el acceso es controlado y restringido.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Karamchan, there are other alternatives to the internet connection in Cuba. But it's not convenient to the dictators, since total control of the information is their main weapon. The Venezuela cable is just an expensive distraction. USA would be more than willing to provide internet services to Cuba in order to promote democracy