Wifi

Cuba starts offering home internet service, but few are buying

Retired teacher Margarita Marquez uses Internet recently installed at her home in Old Havana, Cuba, Dec. 29, 2016.

Retired teacher Margarita Marquez uses Internet recently installed at her home in Old Havana, Cuba, Dec. 29, 2016.  (Reuters)

After a two-month pilot program, Cubans now can access the internet in the comfort of their own homes — but prices are high and speeds painfully slow.

So far just about 360 families have acquired the service started on March 1.

The state-provided connection is offered in packages of 30 hours per month, with a range of prices according to the speed. For 15 CUC (equivalent to dollars), a family gets 128 kilobytes, while on the other end of the spectrum 2 megabytes are available for 105 CUC or one-fourth of the average monthly salary.

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Exceeding the allocated 30 hours results in an additional 1.50 CUC for each extra hour.

Cuba is connected to only one undersea fiber-optic cable originating in Venezuela, although it offers plenty of bandwidth given the low number of users.

Up until now, home connection in Cuba had been allowed only to some professionals like diplomats and foreign journalists, and required a governmental authorization.

The pilot program, which ran from Dec. 19 to Feb, 28, brought free Internet connection to 858 homes in Habana Vieja.

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The island started opening up to cyberspace in the summer of 2015, when the Cuban government opened 240 public Wi-Fi spots in parks and on street corners.

Previously, Cubans were restricted to decrepit state Internet clubs and hotels that charged $6 to $8 for an hour of slow Internet.