The cultural center run by Kcho, in Havana, on March 11, 2015
Desmond Boylan—AP
By Sabrina Toppa
March 17, 2015

Cuba is getting its first free public wi-fi spot at a cultural center run by famous local artist Kcho in the west of the capital Havana.

Kcho, who has close links to Cuban leaders, including long-time former President Fidel Castro, will pay around $900 a month to operate the Internet hub, the BBC reports.

The 45-year-old artist, who was born Alexis Leiva Machado, aims to increase online exposure in a country where only 5% to 25% of the population has access to the web, and where the price of checking email can amount to $4.50 per hour, close to the average Cuban’s weekly pay.

Cuba’s poor telecoms infrastructure means accessibility and affordability are two key challenges to introducing universal Internet access. Information suppression also remains rampant in the country, and last year’s revelations that the U.S. was secretly behind ZunZuneo, a Cuban version of Twitter, did little to restore Havana’s interest in opening up the Internet to all citizens.

However, signs of change are coming in the Cuban telecoms sector, as state firm Etecsa announced a direct telephone service between the U.S. and Cuba last week. In 2013, Cuba and Venezuela also improved Internet connectivity through the completion of an underwater cable. And with thawing U.S.-Cuba relations, Washington has zeroed in on telecoms as one route to strengthening ties.

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