The socialist Castro dictatorship has announced it will allow private citizens to purchase and own their own internet routers and put up private WiFi networks. As expected, the surprising news is being greeted with much fanfare and jubilation by the media (via ABC News):
Cuba announced Wednesday that it is legalizing private Wi-Fi networks and the importation of equipment like routers, eliminating one of the world’s tightest restrictions on internet use.
The measure announced by state media provides a legal status to thousands of Cubans who created homemade digital networks with smuggled equipment that was illegal but generally tolerated by authorities in recent years. It also appears to allow private businesses to provide internet to customers, the potential start in Cuba of internet cafes, so far virtually unknown here.
But like all the other “reforms” announced by Cuba’s socialist dictatorship over the years, the latest announcement does have a catch. While Cubans may now have more options to access the internet on the island, it is still the same highly-censored internet that is closely monitored by State Security.
While the new regulation permits citizens to connect to the internet with their own equipment and share the signal with others, it does not loosen state control of the internet itself. Cuba’s telecoms monopoly, Etecsa, remains the only internet provider on the island. The new rules go into effect on July 29.
While equipment owners will be free to share their Wi-Fi signal, their own access to the internet itself will still require access through a government scratch-off card.
Yet another big “change” in Cuba that really isn’t much of a change after all.