Cuba reports little Internet and telecom progress

Cubans’ ability to communicate with one another and the world remained well below the norm for the Caribbean and Latin America in 2009, according to a government report released this week. Despite the legalization of mobile phones in 2008 there were just 1.8 million phone lines in the country, or 15.5 lines for every 100 inhabitants, which was the lowest in the region, according to the United Nations International Telecommunications Union.

Some 800,000 of the phones were mobiles.

Computers numbered 700,000 or 62 per 1,000 residents, compared with more than 160 per thousand residents in the region, and many were in government offices, health and education facilities.

There is no broadband in Cuba and the relatively few Internet users in the country suffer through agonizingly long waits to open an e-mail, let alone view a photo or video. This also hampers government and business operations.

Cuba blames the United States embargo, saying it must use a satellite system and is limited in the space it can buy.

Last year, in a move easing some aspects of Washington’s 48-year-old embargo against Cuba, President Barack Obama allowed U.S. telecommunications firms to offer services in Cuba as part of a strategy to increase “people to people” contact. more