Cuba Gets its First Free, Public Wi-Fi Spot

A Havana cultural arts center attracts web-hungry teens.

Photo by Flickr user Gordon McDowell.

Cubans can now too enjoy the experience of waiting 15 minutes to load a single cat video over a free public Wi-Fi connection. A Havana cultural center recently began offering the country’s first known free, public internet service—and it’s already a hit with web-hungry teens and local youths.

In a country where a Wi-Fi connection can cost hundreds of dollars per month, this Havana cultural center, owned by world-renowned Cuban artist Kcho, is allowing Curbans greater connectivity to a world beyond their island. The Associated Press spoke to 20-year old Adonis Ortiz, who was conversing with his father over video. He hasn’t seen his father, who lives in the United States, in nine years.

“Thanks to this service I can talk to him,” Ortiz told the Associated Press.

State-owned telecom company Etecsa approved the bid for a connection, which functions at a speed of 2 mbps—which would make Netflix-streaming an episode of Gilmore Girls pretty excruciating. Still, the Associated Press estimates that the connection, even at its slothlike speed, could be costing the center $900 a month. Ouch.