Connecting Cuba

WIFI; so much more than just entertainment, a step towards change

Of all the things we take for granted here in the states, our connection to anything and everything, at any time, at incomprehensible speeds, is near the top of the list. Though it serves uses far beyond just cat videos and twitter feeds, lets face it, the majority of what we use the internet for is nonsense. However, for the people of Cuba, internet access proves useful in a way beyond unfamiliar to us here in the states.

Though I was fore warned that wifi in Cuba was scarce, I was still in for a rude awakening once actually in Cuba. However, I tried taking this lack of access to “the outside world” as a positive addition to the trip, and made a point to try to completely boycott the internet for the duration of the 12 days (though I gave in once around the 9th day in Trinidad). But as I listen back on interviews and really reflect on the situation as a whole, I begin to feel almost selfish for “heroically boycotting burying my face in my phone”, because what access Cuba does have to the internet is something that should almost be marveled at, even proud of.

Whats sometimes a burden to us is a crucial step towards change for them.  Internet in Cuba is highly regulated by the government, and was only just introduced in 2015. Access is limited to wifi parks and cafes with the purchase of wifi cards, which give 1 hour access to the internet via a code, or for a hefty price for your private home or business. However, the more and less restricted access to the internet the people of Cuba gain, is more steps closer to evoking change in the country.

One member of “On Cuba”, an alternative news platform in Cuba, paints a perfect picture of the impact internet has had thus far, “Even with the low internet access, it could change the possibilities for people…when I graduated (college) in 2012, it was something (On Cuba) that was not possible and now is possible. The first wifi spots in Cuba were opened in July of 2015, so before that it was really difficult for people to have access to the internet without working in an institution from the state (government) or paying really high costs”. Not only did the small introduction to the internet pave the way for projects like “On Cuba”, but it affected Cuba on a much more individual and personal level, “…people mainly use it to communicate with their families living abroad…it has changed the way people understand communication and for the first time people have been able to actually see the lives of the people who have left the country. Until that moment it was only stories and photographs. Now you can have 360 degree vision of the houses or streets in real time and it changes the way people see the outside”.

Though the internet situation in Cuba is still far from perfect; access being limited to when the weather is fair for wifi parks being that they’re more easily accessible than cafes, the lesser known “Imo” having to stand in place of the more universally known “Skype” when contacting family due to it being blocked by the government, and even Facebook having extreme restrictions. Regardless, its a huge achievement for the people of Cuba, and really can only lead to a more positive outlook for improvements in everyday life, as well as Cuba’s relationship with the US and other countries.

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