Vancouver Cubans seek email connection

Every time Vancouver resident Julio Montero calls his family in Cuba, he feels uneasy about the expensive long distance rate that takes money away from what he otherwise would send to his relatives.

He hopes his costs decrease after the Cuban government’s decision over a month ago to relax restrictions for Cuban residents to access their email on mobile phones.

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Montero says he’s fortunate enough that his mother has some access to the Internet through friends who work in government offices.

“I have the advantage of using email as an alternative. If I weren’t using email as an alternative I would be using way more [money]. We’re talking about lots of money. It limits how much we can help our family. I want to help my family more.”

The challenges of high prices and bulging demand still makes the Internet hard to obtain for ordinary citizens in the Caribbean island country.

Although Montero’s family has some email access, he says if they have their own email accounts and features like Skype, then he could save more money. For every minute on the phone, Montero pays 90 cents to $1, which he calls “crazy,” compared to rates his friends from Central and South America pay to keep in touch with their families. To keep his bill from growing, he limits his conversation to around 20 minutes.

“Internet would simplify things a lot and I’m talking about an easily additional $100 that I could send my mom every month for her to look after herself . . .  by using Internet, [it] will help improve the quality of life of our families.”

Julio Fonseca, a Cuban-Canadian professor at York University in Toronto, says he’s been following the new changes over email access in Cuba and applauds the government for “taking the right steps.”

Although he doesn’t plan to switch over to email to reach his mother who’s incapable of adapting to the technology, Fonseca says it would affect most Cubans living in North America and all over the world.

“We have paid dearly for communications with Cuba because of this problem... It is true that it would make our lives easier.”
Internet access reforms in Cuba come after an underwater fibre-optic cable was installed from Venezuela to Cuba in 2011. Since then, there have been reports in 2012 of the government stalling to provide access. Then in 2013, it was confirmed by the government’s telecommunications monopoly that the cable was activated but warned residents of limited access.

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