Cubans continue connecting to newly unveiled mobile data service

Diaz-Canel vows more transparency, accountability by way of internet

By Hatzel Vela - Cuba Correspondent

HAVANA - Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel announced a new television program Tuesday, and he promised government leaders would answer to the people.

Diaz-Canel made the announcement while addressing the National Assembly, which is getting ready to unveil a new draft of the proposed constitution.

There will also be a new presidential website, YouTube channel and Twitter account -- an effort he said will keep Cuban society well-informed and allow the leaders to keep government accountable and transparent.

"We are allowing people to participate in the decision-making process," Diaz-Canel told the National Assembly.

He hopes that next year, individual Cuban provinces will have their own websites that citizens can use to pose their concerns.

Diaz-Canel has been urging top government officials, such as ministers, to join Twitter and have a dialogue with Cuban citizens.

This effort is happening as more and more Cubans connect to the newly unveiled mobile data service.

The 3G mobile service went into effect on Dec. 6. ETECSA, the state-run telecommunications company, has not said how many Cubans have signed up but it has said that more than 5 million people in Cuba have active cellphone accounts.

When the service was first announced, the government said there were enough cellphone towers to cover 66 percent of the Cuban population.

At a park in Centro Havana, Mardelys Brown Pacheco sat with her mother to use Wi-Fi. Both women said they had signed up for the service, but used up the allotted data quickly.

"I bought the $10 package and it lasted a week," said Brown Pacheco, who added she mostly uses the data to call her relatives in Italy.

The data packages range from $7 for 600 megabytes to $30 for 4 gigabytes of data. Cuba's monthly average salary is $30 so many people can only afford the lower-priced packages.

After two troubled testing incidents in August, Cubans were concerned the strength of the connection would be inadequate, but people we spoke to were satisfied.

"Yes, it was good," Marlene Paez Enriquez said of her connection at home.

She bought the $7 package, which she uses to communicate with her son in Orlando.

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