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Cuba legalizes private Wi-Fi networks in bid to increase connectivity

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba, announced on Wednesday it would legalize a private Wi-Fi networks to access the internet and connect computers, as well as to allow the importation of equipment, such as routers in a further step in the direction of expanding the connections of the Communist-run island.

FILE PHOTO: People connect to the internet at a hotspot in Havana, Cuba, September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

The new rules, which take effect on July 29, controls the many existing wireless networks Cubans have made in the past few years with smuggled equipment and is likely to stimulate the formation of new.

The move, announced in state-run media, looks set to allow private companies to provide their customers with Wi-Fi internet legally, a boon for the tourist sector.

No network owner, but will be able to sell that service with state telecom company ETECSA maintain a monopoly on commercial internet access on the Caribbean island.

The ordinary citizens will be able to connect to the ETECSA’s infrastructure via Wi-Fi by asking for a permit, the website Cubadebate said.

Cuba has lagged far behind most of the Western Hemisphere in Web access, or because of a lack of money, a long-running U.S. trade embargo or to worry about the flow of information. Until 2013, the internet was largely available to the public only at tourist hotels on the island.

The government has since the promotion of connectivity is a priority, the introduction of outdoor Wi-Fi hot spots and mobile internet.

Given the slow pace of connecting homes to broadband internet, some Cubans have used illegal antenna to connect to the ‘hot spots’ in place, in the hope authorities turn a blind eye.

Now, it turns out that they will be able to get an official permit to do this. Meanwhile, those that are connected to the internet via broadband can use a router that they can apply for the online parts of the service.

Other Cubans, deterred by the prohibitive cost of access, have connected their computers via a cable or wireless connection to share data, play games and chat online.

The new legislation will legalize networks such as this, although owners will have to seek a licence for those with outdoor antennas and stick to certain restrictions.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Dan Grebler

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