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Internet in Cuba

By Cuba, Land & Sea — last modified May 16, 2016 11:02 AM

Published: 2016-05-15 23:00:00
Countries: Cuba

This report was published on the Facebook Group: Cuba, Land & Sea
By Addison Chan
https://www.facebook.com/groups/Cubalandandsail/

The internet in Cuba is still in its infancy, but as a result of a government initiative that was started last year, the number of publicly available access points is increasing by the month. See Robby's post in Cuba, Land and Sea for a list of locations.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/Cubalandandsail/permalink/1095969630459248/

Here are a few pointers about using Cuban internet that will make your surfing experience more pleasant.

1. Bandwidth is still limited. The published spec for public wifi access is 1.0 mbps. In the world of fiber to the home, the speed seems slow but it is perfectly functional for most tasks except heavy uploads and downloads. Even Skype and Facetime audio works. (See point 2 below)

If you find that sites are slow to load you should log off and wait. Since you buy internet in Cuba based on time instead of data transfer, struggling with a slow connection just means getting less for your money.

2. Many US based web sites such as Hotmail, Yahoo, Skype, ITunes, Appstore etc. and many banks block access from Cuba. You will need to have a VPN client such as Tunnelbear to access these and similar type sites from Cuba. To minimize the hassle, you should have your VPN clients on your devices before you come to Cuba, especially if you are using IOS devices.

3. One thing to note if you are using online travel services to book travel while you are in Cuba, you will have difficulty completing the transaction because your payment will be rejected if you are accessing via VPN. If you are not using VPN then your payment may still be rejected because it will be originating from a Cuban IP address. Paypal seems to be OK provided you are paying non Cuban vendors.

4. The fee for internet access is $2.00 CUC per hour and the service is provided by ETECSA the Cuban telephone company. You will need to purchase internet access cards before you can access the internet. Cards are available in 1/2 hour, 1 hour and 5 hour denominations. We do not recommend buying the 5 hour cards unless you are planning on a longer session online. The reason is because the log out process, especially over wifi is fragile. Often a card which I believed has several minutes left will be rejected as "no available balance" because the log out procedure was incomplete and the clock kept running.

5. You will get many security warnings from your browser when you try to log on to the internet. Some will be related to invalid or unverifiable security certificates and others will refer to pop up windows. The reasons for these warnings is too complicated for the purpose of this discussion, but if you do not accept the warnings and proceed, your device will prevent you from logging on. For convenience I have loaded the invalid certificates on my device and I have permitted pop ups for the time being.

6. Keep this IP address handy http://1.1.1.1 it is the undocumented or rather poorly documented way to sign off of the internet. If you do not have a sign out window, enter the above address into your browser and allow an unsecure window to open. When the window opens click on the button that reads "Cerrar Session" you should get a message that says you have signed out. If you do not get the message you may have to repeat the previous steps. If you do get the "desconectado" message you may still want to try opening another web page just to be sure. I have received the message only to find that my session was still active and my time was still running. Just keep disconnecting until you are unable to open an additional web page....Its Cuba!

7. We are in Cuba for extended periods so it is necessary for us to log into our bank accounts periodically to pay bills and to obtain funds. We have accepted the fact that invalid certificates might create a potential problem, but we have decided that it is worth the risk. If you are more cautious then avoid doing financial and other secure transactions while you are in Cuba.

8. Keep a few extra internet cards on hand. Once you get away from Havana they are more difficult to find. In Cienfuegos last month the local entrepreneurs had purchased all of the syocks and they were reselling them in the street corner for $3/hr, a 50% markup. They are easily sold if you find that you have too many when you are getting to leave. They also make nice gifts for just about anybody, cruiser or Cuban alike.

9. Keep smiling when it doesn't work. It's only the internet!

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