Cuba will begin a roll out of fee-based internet access for mobile phones throughout the island on Thursday, a milestone as the Communist-run country softens its tough stance on individual freedoms.
State-run telecom agency ETECSA said Cubans will have access to 3G service on their phones. The internet service has a prohibitive price tag – 600 megabytes costs the equivalent of $7, while a larger package of four gigabytes costs about $30, or an entire month’s salary for most Cubans. Officials said it will be cheaper to access state-run websites and applications, Reuters reported.
While many Cubans are priced out, the service marks a sign of progress for a government that had long restricted internet access for its citizens. Cuba began implementing public Wi-Fi hotspots in 2015 and approved home internet use in 2017.
In the past, Cubans only had access to a government-run email service on their phones. The island’s internet is said to be mostly uncensored, though sites advocating for a regime change or other reforms in Cuba are blocked.
Raul Castro stepped down as Cuba’s president last April. His hand-picked successor, Miguel Diaz-Canel, has championed greater internet access for the island’s residents. Diaz-Canel joined Twitter last October.
Internet use has grown even after President Trump tightened restrictions on the island, which had been loosened by former President Barack Obama.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.