Cuba has said that it is legalising private Wi-Fi networks and will allow the personal importation of related equipment such as routers. The decision reflects the country’s intention to have an internet enabled economy, an issue that the country’s President Miguel Díaz-Canel has championed. The decision also seeks to address several technical issues relating to saturation.
The new measures, announced in the state media on 29 May and published in the Official Gazette, will go into force on 29 July enabling all Cubans to access Wi-Fi from their homes should they wish to and can afford to do so. The measure also indirectly legalises the use of such equipment by the many thousands of Cubans who have previously informally imported such equipment, a situation which in recent years has largely been tolerated by the Cuban authorities.
The new regulation permits citizens to connect to the Internet with their own equipment and share their signal with others. However, Cuba’s state telecommunications company ETECSA will remain the sole internet provider through its paid for Nauta internet service. The new regulations make clear that while home Wi-Fi signals can be provided to third party individuals, no charge can be made.
The regulation additionally permits non-state businesses to provide free internet access to customers. establishes a basis for the legal importation of routers, antenna and other equipment, requires Cubans to apply online for a technical authorisation permit to import equipment, and makes clear that customs will inspect all such imports.
Up to now Wi-Fi access signals in Cuba has only been available at post offices, government and youth computing centres, as well as through hubs located in in sites such as parks and in tourist hotels. While some Cubans have found ways of pirating such signals, most continue to pay ETECSA at a rate of CUC1 (US$1) per hour.
The new regulations also limit the coverage of a signal, allow for wired networks for example to groups of apartments subject to a fee, enable retail outlets to sell approved equipment for private use, and require existing illegally imported users to meet the technical requirements for Wi-Fi contained in the new regulations.
According to Granma the decision will enable Cubans ‘to navigate the immense world of internet from the comfort of their home’. The official media reported the changes being introduced had also been taken to ‘avoid saturation, interference or degradation in the public (Wi-Fi) services provided by the country’ at a time when Cuba is trying to move towards becoming an internet enabled economy.
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