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Cubans Embrace New Internet Connectivity Options

Cubans Embrace New Internet Connectivity Options
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The re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States has opened the door to better access to the Internet on the island, where only 5% of the population has full entry to the World Wide Web.

The new options are "a possibility that has been given to the people, to connect to the world and communicate with their friends," said Roberto Gonzalez, a wireless Internet user. "I think this is a positive development."

Gonzalez and his wife, Tania Enriquez, hope more people will connect now that the Cuban authorities have approved the use of prepaid cards to access the Web. The government-owned telecommunications company ETECSA sells a limited number of cards daily. For about $2 U.S., Cubans can buy 30 minutes in cyberspace.

"Not everybody knows how to do this," said Michel De Armas, an Internet user. "It's a little difficult for some people. For others, it's easy."

Thirty-five wireless points have been set up across Cuba, and although the prepaid cards can be used in any cellphone, laptop or tablet, there are restrictions. For instance, the "IMU" app is the only one authorized for making video calls.

"It is time to open the doors and communicate," said Joe Arriola, Miami's former city manager. "It’s time to see how the two countries benefit. And I think that the two countries have opportunities to benefit."

The Cuban government says that because of the U.S. embargo, Internet service is provided only by satellite. But many expect that the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the U.S. will allow tech companies to start building a more robust infrastructure. Selling prepaid cards is the first step in this new process that might soon include more transmission towers, fiber-optic cable and iPhone sales.