Yes, read that again: Free WiFi in Havana!
The internet in Cuba
Cuba has slowly opened up the Internet. First, there was the problem that all Internet communication should go via satellite and that made it slow and costly. Consequently, Internet access was slow and costly.
Then, in 2011 the optic fiber cable connecting Cuba with Venezuela stirred hope, but nothing much happened. Stories about sharks eating the cable and some government official buying the wrong cable explained nothing really. Internet stayed slow and prices high. 2 CUC per hour in a country where average wages are about 3 times that amount (per month) means that an average Cuban paid 30% of his monthly income for 1 (ONE) hour of internet. (that all of this is plain bulsh#t must be clear… we explain it in our book)
In June 2015 Etecsa, the Cuban telecom monopoly opened up WiFi zones in every city. Prices went down to 2 CUC an hour if you could buy a scratch card. These cards are always sold out but can be bought on the streets for 3 CUC. The mechanism of this phenomenon is beyond the scope of this article but some people are making big bucks here.
‘Tomorrow I’ll take you to a free WiFi spot” whispered a friend of mine…
My interest was sparked… Free WiFi? WTF!!! In Cuba?!?
The next day we were on our way. First the bus, then an almendron and a short walk. After an hour we arrived at the studios of KCHO. And even outside the wall, there were many, many people surfing on their laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Kcho opened up his Internet connection and on the wall (on the outside) he explains the few simple steps to connect to his network. And it is Free!
No Free WiFi for you
Before you run off to Kcho to update you FB status I have to advise you not to. The abundance of young Cuban intellectuals all sharing this connection makes it slow. Very slow. You as a tourist are more than able to buy a scratch card and use the paid connection. Don’t take away the bandwidth for people that cannot afford to buy it! But if you crave an interesting excursion here’s Kcho studios (located on the corner of 7A and 120.
Update April 16: Kcho now works together with Google… They opened the first Google centre in Cuba. 15 Chromebooks offer free internet! And it is broadband! On a critical note, the WiFi is free as in money but not free as in ‘do whatever you want.’ KHCO is a personal friend of Fidel and is monitoring content…
Want some more hidden information on Cuba? Keep reading our blog or buy our Book (and no, the book is not a collection of blog posts) 🙂
On the ‘get the book’ page we’ll give you a practical tip that will save you a few hours in Cuba.