Cuba to create first Wi-Fi signals for the public at large

A man uses the internet via Wi-Fi in front of a hotel in Havana June 18, 2015. REUTERS/Enrique de la Osa

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba plans to beam Wi-Fi signals at 35 public spaces in the first such offering for the population at large, whose Web access has been mostly limited to desktop rentals in state-owned Internet parlors.

Cuba will also cut the price for surfing the net from $4.50 to $2 per hour, the chief spokesman for the state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa told the official newspaper Juventud Rebelde in Thursday's editions.

The Communist-led island has one of the lowest Internet usage rates in the world with virtually no home broadband service and extremely high rates for foreigners and a tiny number of homes and businesses allowed to be wired.

Only 3.4 percent of Cuban homes are connected, and most of those have intranet, not Internet, according to data from the International Telecommunication Union, a U.N. agency.

But increasingly Cuban officials have been commenting about demand for better Internet access.

At the same time the United States has promoted the Internet in Cuba has part of the recent opening to its longtime nemesis, for example relaxing the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba to allow U.S. companies to do Internet-related business here.

The Wi-Fi signals will be beamed to 35 public spaces including five in Havana, Etecsa spokesman Luis Manuel Diaz Naranjo told Juventud Rebelde. Each spot would be able to handle 50 to 100 users with a speed of one megabit per second per user, Diaz Naranjo said.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta Editing by W Simon)