Cuba is aiming to increase internet access to 50% of its households by 2020, while boosting penetration of mobile telephony services to 60%, Reuters cites a senior US State Department official as saying. ‘There’s real potential here if there’s a real will on the Cuban side … As long as the Cubans create an environment that’s attractive to investment … and attractive to the delivery of services, I believe those services will reach the island,’ he said, adding: ‘They are falling behind, and that’s denying their people access to knowledge and to the opportunity to grow as an economy and as a people, and they’re aware of that.’ At the end of 2014 Cuba had roughly 2.5 million mobile phone users, translating to a wireless penetration of around 22%, one of the lowest rates in the world, notes TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database. Access to the internet, meanwhile, is currently restricted and available only with government permission, with broadband infrastructure virtually non-existent.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in December 2014 the US initiated new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to telecoms and their ability to communicate freely, as part of steps to change relations between the two countries and to further engage and empower the Cuban people. The US said it will authorise the commercial sale of certain consumer communications devices, related software, applications, hardware and services, and items for the establishment and update of communications-related systems. In a further step, Washington is allowing telecoms providers to establish the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure, in Cuba to provide commercial telecoms and internet services, which will improve communication between the island and the US. Last week a delegation of US telecoms officials concluded a three-day visit to Cuba as part of efforts to restore diplomatic relations between the two countries. The delegation, headed by Daniel Sepulveda, the US State Department’s Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, held talks with Cuban officials, including Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Communications, Jorge Luis Perdomo Di-Lella. During the meeting, the island’s officials provided information about the country’s computer systems and cybersecurity policy.