Magic word: internet

Some small corrections have taken place in my head in Cuba. I don’t take things I was used to having at home (in Estonia) for granted anymore. One of these things is the availability of internet. Some time ago I met a tourist in a hotel lobby when I was using the internet. During our conversation, he complained that Cuba violates his human rights as he cannot use the internet whenever he wants and has to pay a very high price for this.

In that sense, Cuba is a perfect place for those people, who are not able to live without the internet (read: who have an internet addiction) and would like to do something about it. Internet availability is limited and it is very expensive for Cubans and also for tourists. In general, many things are cheaper for Cubans compared to tourists, but the internet access fee is the same. On the premises of state owned telecom operator (ETECSA) and in hotels are located computers that are set up for internet access. Some of these places have Wi-Fi also available. The internet access fee is approximately 4.5 euros for one hour. In some of the hotels, it is even higher and can be up to 10 euros. However, paying the high price does not quarantee quality service. Often, the Wi-Fi network is overloaded and very slow as many people are hogging the internet. Therefore, it is advisable to plan when you use the internet. The best time is between 10.00 a.m. and 3.00 p.m. when tourists have gone to the beach or sightseeing.

It is a luxury when somebody has internet access at home in Cuba. People are in very long waiting lists for getting internet access in their homes. Luckily, some restrictions have been lifted recently. Now, people have a possibility to read and send emails through their personal computers via dial-up service. Partially due to the pressure of USA, the internet availability has improved and the prices are more affordable to people.

Limited internet availability has approved my planning skills. Before I go online, I think very carefully what I have to do and I prepare a to-do list for that. I don’t spend any time on surfing on the internet. I draft all my e-mails in advance to save time and money. When I’m online, I just press “send” button.

Limited access and high prices are not the only problems. Another issue is that some of the webpages and services are blocked in Cuba. For example, it is not possible to use Skype, FaceTime, AppStore, and PayPal in Cuba. As most of the internet communication channels are blocked and calling from Cuba is very expensive (calling to Europe costs around 2.5 euros per minute), my communication with my family was complicated at first. Allegedly, it is possible to talk via Gmail’s messenger, but special software needs to be download for that. This has to be done before arriving to Cuba as downloading this software is also blocked in Cuba.

I was seeking different solutions how do communicate with my family in Estonia for almost a month. Finally, I found a service provider from the internet (one of them is HideMyAss.com) that helps with changing the IP aadress on your computer and/or smartphone so it doesn’t indicate that you are in Cuba. Due to the different IP aadress, it is possible to use all the services mentioned above.

I’m really thankful to mu sister, who is my link to the rest of the world when it comes to the internet. When I need to find some information online (which is a time-consuming task), I send a text message to her. She surfs on the internet and sends me back a summary of the requested information.

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