Cuba aims to ramp up Internet access -U.S. State Dept official
By David Adams
March 30 (Reuters) - Cuba, a few decades late to the Internet era, is committed to getting the web into 50 percent of its households by 2020, as well as achieving 60 percent mobile phone access, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Monday.
Cuba has one of the lowest Internet and mobile phone penetration rates in the world, but the recent U.S. rapprochement toward the Communist-led island may have added pressure to modernize.
"I believe they are extremely eager to do so," said the State Department official, who spoke to reporters after officials from both countries met last week for telecommunications talks in Havana.
"They are falling behind, and that's denying their people access to knowledge and to the opportunity to grow as an economy and as a people, and they're aware of that," he added.
Barely 5 percent of Cubans have home access to the Internet, and scarcely 2 million out of its 11 million population have cellphones, according to U.S. officials.
Cuba's ability to reach the goals it agreed to under the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations agency, will depend not just on political will, but also its ability to purchase needed infrastructure upgrades, the official said.
"There's real potential here if there's a real will on the Cuban side," he said. "As long as the Cubans create an environment that's attractive to investment ... and attractive to the delivery of services, I believe those services will reach the island."
The United States has set connectivity as a priority in its new relationship with Cuba. Telecommunications equipment, technology and services were among the first exemptions to the embargo after Washington and Havana announced on Dec. 17 they would restore diplomatic relations. Continuación...