Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Rural home connectivity in Cuba

Last month Cuba's government monopoly ISP ETECSA announced special home connectivity rates for some of the poorest towns in rural Cuba. The monthly charge for 30 hours of 512/256 Kbps DSL access in those towns will be 5 CUC. In other areas where home connectivity is available, the minimum monthly charge is 15 CUC for 30 hours of 1,024/256 kbps service and faster, more expensive, plans are available.

(The setup fee of 10 CUC was also dropped for the rural areas, but users are still required to purchase a modem).

This is better than nothing, but it seems more like a business decision than a universal-service policy.
  • The condition of the wires and the distances of homes from central offices may explain the rural speed limit of 512/256 kbps.
  • The demand curve for connectivity in poor, rural areas is different than in urban areas.
  • The slow speed means users will accomplish less during their 30 hours online. (Surfing modern Web sites at 512 kbps would be tedious at best).
  • The lower speed will enable ETECSA to get by with less backhaul capacity.
  • The number of users who are able to get the service will depend upon the number of central offices ETECSA upgrades. There was a sharp increase in the number of digital central offices in Cuba during 2017, but we don't know how many will be upgraded to provide DSL connectivity to homes where this low-cost service will be available:

In 1998 I noted that by the standards of the developing nations at that time, Cuban networks and telecommunication infrastructure were atypically dispersed. I attributed that to their revolutionary history and values, but this offer seems like a small drop in the bucket -- more PR than substance.

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