Home broadband is currently restricted to diplomats and foreign officials in the country

Cuba to launch its first home broadband service

Cuba has announced it is launching its first broadband internet service for households in two Havana neighbourhoods.

State telecommunications company Etesca said it would allow Cubans to have internet access in Old Havana, the colonial centre that is one of the communist island's main tourist attractions,

The access would be through fibre optic connections operated with Chinese telecom firm Huawei.

The move follows a resumption of diplomatic relations between America and the country in the last year that has helped it to become less isolated from the rest of the world.

Coupled with a relaxation of America’s trade embargo over the country, this has resulted in increasing internet access for its citizens and more tourism due to the opening of transport routes including a ferry service running from Florida.

Odalys Rodriguez del Toro, Etesca's director for Havana, said the government would also begin allowing cafes, bars and restaurants to offer broadband service, although she offered no timeline for the pilot project or roll-out of broader access. The price of the service will be announced in the future.

Some Cubans already have a dial-up home service or restricted mobile phone connections that allow access only to state-run email.

Fibre-optic home connections in Cuba will be a significant step for the country where broadband home service is currently legal only for diplomats and employees of foreign companies, who pay hundreds of dollars a month for connections for internet that are a fraction of the average speed in other countries.

General public access to broadband internet only began last year, with the opening of dozens of public Wi-Fi spots that cost $2 (£1.40) an hour, about a tenth of the average monthly salary in Cuba.

30 more Wi-fi spots are due to open in Havana this year, doubling the existing number of access points in Cuba, although no plans for access outside of the capital have been revealed so far.

US President Obama Obama hopes to travel to Cuba this year to celebrate his re-establishment of diplomatic relations, but has said he would visit only if he believed his presence would help improve the lives of ordinary Cubans by moving the island towards greater freedom.

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