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Cuba to Increase Unrestricted Internet Access

A man surfs the Internet using a wireless connection in the lobby of a hotel in Havana, Cuba, January 23, 2013.
A man surfs the Internet using a wireless connection in the lobby of a hotel in Havana, Cuba, January 23, 2013.
Cuba will begin offering broader Internet access next month through 118 outlets around the country, according to a decree in the government's Official Gazette on Tuesday, in a step long awaited by many Cubans.

It said Internet would be made available starting June 4 at offices of ETECSA, the state telecommunications monopoly, and elsewhere in what a government blogger said was a first step toward home service.

“Maybe it will take a while but the next step is to connect Cubans from their houses. This is the advance party,'' said blogger Yohandry Fontana, who often is first to report official information and viewpoints, commenting on Twitter.

The decree made clear that the new Internet access would be closely monitored, warning users it could not be used to “endanger or prejudice public security, or the integrity and sovereignty of the nation.''

Currently, unrestricted access to Internet in Cuba is available only to select institutions and professionals and to luxury hotels catering to tourists.

The communist-led island says that 2.6 million Cubans, out of a population of 11.2 million, have access to the Internet, but until now most have only been able to explore a limited, state-controlled “intranet'' basket of approved websites.

While Cubans will have greater, unrestricted access to the Internet, it will still be too expensive for most of them, the equivalent of $4.50 an hour in a country where the average monthly salary amounts to $20.

Cuba was connected to a fiber-optic communication cable from close ally Venezuela in 2011, which the government has been testing in recent months but still not put into wide use.

The island has been getting its Internet through a slow and expensive satellite link.

Cuban media said the number of Internet outlets would be expanded as time and money permit.
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