US Carriers, You're Going to Cuba!
Hope you like mojitos and fine cigars, because you're on your way to Cuba.
President Obama on Wednesday announced normalizing relations with Cuba. Among the provisions: US telcos will be able to do business in the island nation, according to a White House statement.
"Cuba has an internet penetration of about five percent -- one of the lowest rates in the world. The cost of telecommunications in Cuba is exorbitantly high, while the services offered are extremely limited," the statement reads.
The 5% of Cubans with access to the full global Internet connect through government institutions, high-end hotels and the black market, according to the pro-democracy group Freedom House. Around a quarter of Cubans can get on the national intranet, where they can use a national email system, view pro-government websites, and use few other services. A submarine high-speed cable linked Cuba and Venezuela went online in 2011, but a year later it was little used.
Internet access has been a hot-button issue in US-Cuban relations. As part of the normalization deal, Cuba is freeing Alan Gross, an American government contractor arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison. He was in Cuba distributing Internet equipment, including laptops, WiFi routers and cell phones.
With a population of 11 million people, many of whom live in poverty, Cuba isn't going to be a transformational market for carriers. But 11 million isn't nothing either -- it's about the same population as Ohio, the seventh most populous US state. And there's a good chance that Cuban poverty won't last long, with Communism loosening its grip on a country that's a short hop from the second-biggest economy in the world.