Anyone who has ever visited Havana, Cuba is familiar with the city’s Malecón, an iconic spot that has long welcomed a confluence of people ranging from fishermen to casual strollers, to street performers. Now, the waterfront boulevard will be attracting a new techy crowd as the Cuban government has announced plans to install public pay-per-use Wi-Fi hotspots along eight kilometres of the well-known landmark.
While the island nation is changing rapidly thanks to a series of recent diplomatic events involving the US, Cuba remains one of the least-connected nations in the world: only 5% of Cubans have access to the internet in their homes and content is often heavily restricted. Last year, the government and its state-owned internet service provider Etecsa installed several new public hotspots in plazas and parks around Havana, charging $2 an hour for access, a price that is often prohibitive considering the state salary averages $25 a month. The Malecón project will span from Prado Avenue to the Fifth Avenue tunnel – the most popular part of the waterfront.
Etecsa does not offer internet for the private homes of most Cubans, but some professionals such as professors, journalists and doctors are allowed internet access at their residences. The government says that it expects 80 more hot spots to be functional by the end of 2016 in addition to the 65 that are already in service.