The Nauta Home project, implemented as a free pilot test starting in January by the telecommunications monopoly ETECSA, in an effort to get Internet service into homes, will begin to charge fees, despite technical failures in its service.
"The first day fees are being applied, and the message is 'Mission Failed'... it's enough to dissuade one from starting to pay, and convincing him to just keep wandering around Havana in search of faster Wi-Fi," complained Luis Orlando, one of users who was chosen for the test.
The Nauta Home test program, which offered two free months of service to users chosen at the public councils of Plaza Vieja and Catedral, concluded in early March. Now those chosen must decide whether they are willing to pay the fees, always for packages of 30 hours, and depending on the speed of the connection contracted: 15 CUC for 128/64 Kbps, 75 CUC 1024 / 256 Kbps, and 115 CUC for 2048 / 256 Kbps.
Asked about these failures during the project, right after the expiration of the free period, employees at Telepoint on the Calle Obispo responded: "Don't forget that it's a test, even when we begin to charge for the service," adding that rather than failures, the situation involved "adjusting and correcting, because this is something new."
"Like almost everything in Cuba: a massive, infinite experiment," railed Tamara, another selected user.
"The two-month pilot test ended, which was free, but now there begins the ordeal of further tests, which could very well be indefinite. We will have the convenience of accessing the Internet from home, but apparently the service, even though you're now paying for it, might not be available when you want it."
Leo Conesa, director of the La Marca visual arts project, said that although the rates continue to be too high for many, "at least there is a range of them, to accommodate different budgets."
"An average family could buy the service offering 128/64 Kbps. That speed is slow for downloading or streaming, but just fine to use Gmail or to browse the Web and some social networks. For the most prosperous businesses, I think the rate of 115 CUC is worth it, as the speed of 2048 / 256 Kbps allows you to use advertising and create webpages. The downside is that the service suffers from these interruptions, something that must be fixed."
Ariel Sánchez, a specialist in programming and web design, said that while there is a variety of rates, they are "not at all fair."
"An advanced user does not necessarily have a thriving business. He may not even have a private business – as is my case – giving him more buying power than State employees."
Sánchez also doubted that the rate for 1024 / 256 Kbps, at 75 CUC, could be cost-effective for him: "because at less than that speed an advanced user cannot do his job effectively, as he'd consume the 30 hours in just one week."
Some "mysteries" of the experiment
ETECSA specialists did not specify how much the ADSL technology package that was implemented for the Nauta Hogar project could cost. Computer technicians consulted agreed that "the modem, at least, will cost no less than 200 CUC."
"And it is not at all fair that users of humbler means must pay that kind of money after having contracted the slowest speed," they expressed.
A review of the public councils confirmed the suspicion that the figure of "2,000 families," cited by ETECSA as having participated in the pilot program, was "inflated," given that they all need land lines at home.
"I still don't believe it, as it is unlikely that 2,000 families in these areas have land lines," Alexander insisted.
"With 2,000 houses between the two councils, that means almost three users or more per block. The selection of these alleged 2,000 families is classified as a secret, because I also asked and nobody at Telepoint knows. My parents told me that they simply received a visit from ETECSA, proposing the pilot initiative, and they accepted without thinking twice."
In November Dayán León, a graduate of the Advanced Design Institute, opened a private studio in Old Havana, and when he found about Nauta Hogar's pilot program he went straight to Telepunto "to ask about how one qualified, what the requirements were."
"There I was told that the selection had already been made, and they did not know what parameters had been used. However, among the few people selected, in line to sign the contract, there were some older people who asked me what the Internet was."