The introduction of Wi-Fi hotspots in Cuban public spaces two years ago has transformed the island that had been mostly offline. But as appetite for better and cheaper access grows, Cubans hope the government will make good on promises to roll out the service to homes. Alexandra Goldsmith reports.
Whatever the weather, Cubans flock to public wifi hotspots to get connected. It's not just phones that light up, as family and friends catch up. But for some of those who fill parks and internet cafes, hotspots are an annoying necessity - particular if your loved one is abroad. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) HAVANA RESIDENT, SOLANDE SERRET, SAYING: "It's very difficult - I can't speak to my husband unless I come to a place like this - I'm s peaking to him right now and he's at home. Other times, he's at work, he's a truck driver and he can even talk from the truck, but I have to come here, whether it's raining or sunny." o The demand for better internet access has brought promises from officials to roll out services to homes by the end of the year. Havana partially blames the US trade embargo for the slow development and high costs. The cheapest subs cription is half an average monthly state salary. Yet the desire for internet access at home is clear as hotspot users begrudge the lack of privacy. (SOUNDBITE) (Spllan ish) CUBAN ARCHITECT, ELENA MAS, SAYING: "It's a bit sad, you can see the intimate lives of people in a park. Sometimes you hear pleading, like, 'when are you going to send me an invite or 'I miss you son.' Everything that comes with daily life." The country's links to the rest of the world are increasing. o And many Cubans are hoping the wifi will be one of the fastest areas to grow.