Cubans use the Internet in Havana, March 24, 2015.
Enrique de la Osa / Reuters

In a town a few hours from Havana, Julio, 19, sat with his guests on the roof of his house, enjoying the warm Caribbean sun. “Mira, ¿ves?” he asked his visitors, meaning, “Look, can you see?”

Julio was pointing at the small antennas that popped up from almost every rooftop across the town—antennas that he installed himself to reroute public WiFi into homes.

This would not have been possible a year ago. In Cuba, Internet access is hard to come by. But in July 2015, ETECSA (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A.), the state-owned telecom monopoly, began rolling out WiFi hot spots. From 35 in 2015, there are now over 90 nationwide and counting. It is easy to identify hot spots on street corners and in parks and hotels by the clusters of people crowded together with their devices, video chatting, sending e-mails, playing games, and browsing social media.

 

That is because private

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  • LAURA LEHMAN is a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, focusing on education and social justice in Latin America and the United States.
  • MARIELA MACHADO FANTACCHIOTTI is a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a telecommunications engineer.
  • EMILY SYLVIA is a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, specializing in agriculture and food security. 
  • CHIARA BERCU is a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, focusing on holistic public health systems for women and girls. 
  • GARY VERBERG is a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, specializing in agriculture.
  • TRICIA JOHNSON is a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, focusing on environmental sustainability in Latin America.
  • ANA CAROLINA DÍAZ is a graduate student at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, focusing on global health and nutrition. 
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