The internet in Cuba sucks! Accessing it as a visitor is far more frustrating and a bigger hassle than anywhere else in the world of 2018 ... maybe not worse than North Korea?
Think rather year 2000.
As a resident with a telephone account, you may have access to a dial up line. Access is slow and unreliable. Remember the days when rain could affect the quality of your access? The sound of the modem making a connection?
That’s Cuba today.
Accessing the Internet with WiFi in Cuba
To start, anyone needs an ETECSA access card. These are available in 1 or 5 hour cards at a price of CUC1 (just over USD1) per hour. We bought our cards from an ETECSA office in Obispo Street. After lining up in the street for over 30 minutes people are then admitted into the door three at a time. With the transaction taking less than a few minutes to complete.
Individual licenced shops scattered around the country also sell cards. These identified by the ETECSA logo and sign.
In Cuba there is a line (queue) for everything. They say that if a person stands on a street corner someone will eventually stand next to him then someone else will join the line. Eventually you’ll have a line of people … waiting for nothing!
WiFi (also known as WeeFee) Parks
With cards in hand we headed to a Wi-Fi zone. These areas are distributed around Cuba. Finding them is not easy although Maps.me does show the position of some. They are easily recognised by a cluster of people sitting, standing and leaning and busy on their cell phones. At the parks I’ve visited I’ve only seen a couple of tablets and no laptops.
The quality of the access depends on the number of people and is generally very poor. After getting a signal, which may take many attempts, you enter a user number and a password and you’re in. Time ticks by fast and the downloads and uploads are very slow.
There is also WiFi access in many upmarket hotels. However, to access these nodes requires a unique card for that hotel. It is also far more expensive … for non-residents anyway! The aim of these cards appears to be to prevent large groups of ordinary people hanging about around these establishments!
There is internet in Cuba and that’s a plus. But limited distribution of the network makes it frustrating and time consuming to complete even the simplest tasks. There’s no doubt it’ll improve but it needs to do it fast!
My Summary of the Internet in Cuba
You cannot buy a data only SIM card and access the Internet. The only solution is these cards and WiFi the designated WIFI areas.
This lack of easy internet access is very frustrating for visitors.
It’s not in the interest of Cuba to lag further and further behind the rest of the world.
Internet access may bring some risk to the political and social system. But in a changing world it brings many more benefits.