A Cubacel store (Photo: Pinterest)

Telecommunications clampdown in Cuba

A Cubacel store (Photo: Pinterest)

New legislation from the Cuban Government will affect use of the Internet and radio in the Caribbean nation. On August 17, 2021, the Government made public Decree-Law 35 accompanied by new regulations seeking to limit use of telecommunications, radio, Internet and address “cybersecurity incidents.”

The decree requires telecommunications providers to interrupt, suspend, or terminate their services when a user publishes information that is “fake” or affects “public morality” and the “respect of public order.”

People connecting their mobiles in Parque Fe del Valle in Havana Centro (Galeano y San Rafael). Cubans and foreigners log into the internet using scratch-off cards from the company NAUTA. These cards can be purchased at the local phone company, ETECSA for 1,5 USD. (Photo: Bloomberg)

Telecommunications in Cuba includes  NTSC analog television, analog radio, telephony, AMPS, D-AMPS, and GSM mobile telephony, and the Internet. Telephone service is provided through ETECSA (Telecommunications Company of Cuba), mobile telephone service is provided through the Cellular Telephone Company of Cuba (CUBACEL). The main international telecommunications links are through Intersputnik.

Research sources indicate that most Internet connections are made through the 709 Wi-Fi zones and more than 200 dedicated Internet rooms (known as ‘navigation rooms’) in parks, hotels and other urban locations.  Around  2.5 million Cubans have 3G connectivity, sources state, noting that with more than two million Cubans living overseas, the Internet has allowed those living outside of Cuba to link  friends and family back home.

Under the new Decree-Law 35, telecommunications users have a duty to prevent  “fake news or reports” and must not encourage events and usage that affect the “collective security,” “general well-being,” “public morality,” or “respect of public order.” Telecommunications providers must “interrupt,” “suspend,” or “terminate”  services when users are in violation. Providers may be fined or lose their licence if they don’t comply. Decree-Law 35 also requires telecommunications providers to support government authorities with technical facilities given to government agencies and by providing information to the  Communications Ministry.

A cybecurity resolution describes  online content as a potential threat to security, including “spreading fake news,” and “slander that impacts the prestige of the country.” Under the resolution, authorities  are required to “prevent,” “detect,” “investigate,” and “mitigate” cybersecurity incidents,  and  adopt measures for their “eradication.” Researchers note that use of the Internet is very expensive, making its cost prohibitive for many Cubans.

Raúl Castro presents his successor to the presidency of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, at the inauguration in 2018. On August 17, 2021, the Government passed Decree-Law 35 accompanied by new regulations aiming to limit the use of telecommunications, radio, Internet and address “cybersecurity incidents.” (Photo: Cuba Debate)

Also many telecommunication services are exclusively offered by the State-owned Telecommunications Company of Cuba SA (ETECSA) and are controlled by the Cuban Government, which restricts connectivity.  There were  countrywide Internet outages,  and restrictions on social media and messaging platforms, during the July 2021 protests.