Cuba’s “Quality” Telecommunication Services

Etecsa

Illustration by Yasser Castellanos

HAVANA TIMES By: Kabir Vega Castellanos, 29 March 2017

You don’t need a particular day to get annoyed with ETECSA. All you have to do is install the Nauta service on your mobile phone and you’ll discover more than enough reasons.

Discover, for instance, that you can’t install email on your phone unless it’s a phone you bought directly from ETECSA. That after trying to figure out the instructions on the piece of paper they give you, you end up giving up and paying 3 CUC to a private person so that your email will finally work.

That due to the ups and downs of the service working properly, you have to wait 10 to 30 minutes to be able to sign in. Add to this the fact that emails you write often don’t send and only give you an error message, or worse yet: when you have emptied your online inbox, the emails you have already read come back again which uses double your credit.

The location of many of the offices where this State business offers its services, don’t help in making the long wait any more comfortable. Once, at the Cotorro office, I had to wait 2 hours! standing up in a doorway just to be able to buy a simple card.

In Alamar, the office is inviting and there are a row of machines with internet acces, but before going in, you have to wait under a piece of tarpaulin which smells awful on summer days.

All of this, just so any service you ask for ends up disappointing you.

For example: Discovering that the sale of internet access cards is irregular. That available computers freeze everytime you try and do two things at once, while the clock counting down the minutes left on your card continues at a spiralling rate: this never stops!

That some websites can’t be accessed. That others promise to open but then get frozen, while others only half load (photos don’t download). That signing into Facebook and especially Linkedin, and making contact, within the time you have is mission impossible.

Another thing which I have personally been lucky enough not to experience yet personally, are hacker sites at the WIFI pay-for hotspots. Apparently, you go to the official page where you put in your user name and password, however, you suddenly see your credit disappear before your eyes, as if by magic.

The area in front of the “La Guayabera” cultural complex in Alamar, is a fixed target for this kind of scam, but ETECSA doesn’t take any responsibility for victims that suffer this. You can’t go anywhere to complain, users are completely unprotected.

I remember that years before internet access cards were sold there were private people who used to offer this service in secret, using an account from some workplace. We have to admit that the connection was much slower and that the only thing that was being monitored was whether the client was looking at “stigmatized” sites, in the political sense of the word.

These were more or less the doors of salvation, even for people who were looking for partners abroad. Many people clearly prospered from this business until their worlds got turned upside down and their machines were confiscated, their phoneline and anything that seemed to have been bought with the fruits of this “illegal economic activity”.

My basic question for ETECSA is: if cell phone calls in Cuba are the most expensive in the world, that the phone line expires if you don’t be credit; if top-ups include credit which sell out in record time and you’re forced to buy even if you have nobody to talk to; if internet access cards can’t be bought with an average salary, why don’t they at least have a speedy connection?

LINK: Cuba’s “Quality” Telecommunication Services

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