Saturday, July 5, 2008

Telephone Service in Cuba: About 1 in 10 People Are Connected

Ray Sanchez | Direct from Havana
July 1, 2008


Hortencia Zayas took an informal telephone-line survey of the crowded Old Havana tenement where she has lived for decades. "There are three lines on the first floor," the 82-year-old former seamstress said. "There are three more lines on the second level. I think three people have cell phones but I'm not quite sure." That would make the three dozen or so residents of Zayas' crumbling apartment building among the best-connected people on the island, which has 1.241 million telephone lines and 11.2 million inhabitants, according to Cuba's National Statistic Office. "To tell you the truth, I'm surprised Cuba has that many phone lines," she said. "It's almost impossible to get a new line. People are always being told there isn't enough capacity."

Telecommunications figures for 2007 (available at showed 910,000 fixed phone lines and 331,000 mobile lines nationally. Of the fixed lines, 758,000 were residential, with the rest in the hands of the state. There were 4.5 personal computers per 100 residents, the latest figures showed. Most of those computers were in government offices, health facilities or state-run firms. The report said more than 10 percent of the population had Internet access. In April, President Raul Castro authorized the sale of computer and cell phone contracts to ordinary Cubans, who for years had to obtain the items on the black market or from foreigners. As for the high number of phone lines in Zayas' Old Havana tenement, she said, only half kidding, "We talk a lot on this block."

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