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July 2, 2015

Opening for business could end Internet isolation for Cuba

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After decades of isolation, Cuba could soon expand access to consumer technology and the Internet.

Just 25 percent of Cubans have Internet access, with only 5 percent able to access a free and open Internet. The government only legalized owning a cellphone in 2008, but most Cubans still cannot afford them.

Around 150 state-owned telecom centers allow Cubans to send email and access the Cuba’s intranet network, or intranet, for a reasonable price. To access the global Internet, Cubans must go to hotels and pay significantly more.

In today’s global economy, this presents a problem for Cubans looking to do business outside the country.

Cuban leaders recognize the benefits that Internet accessibility brings but still remain cautious, Raul Moas, executive director of Miami-based nonprofit Roots of Hope, said.

Even with widening access to technology information, the state still controls the national media, including television, radio and newspaper. The websites of independent news outlets critical of the government remain blocked inside Cuba. U.S. telecoms will soon arrive to improve wireless Internet connections, but state control may still restrict what Cubans can see online.

Bloggers like Manuel Mons, a member of a Cuban reform movement called Somos Mas or We Are More, transmit their articles to others within the country through external drives. Mons said the government fears political dissent that could come with a free and open Internet.

“The quicker the Internet comes, the quicker the changes in Cuba will come,” said Mons.


Warm up questions
  1. What do you use the Internet for?
  2. What is “state-owned media”?
Critical thinking questions
  1. How would your life be different if you did not have Internet access?
  2. Why would a government choose to limit access to the Internet? What effect has this had on Cuba?
  3. Why is having a free press important? How would state-owned media be different than a free press?
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