HAVANA - Cuban authorities said Tuesday that they would begin offering public Internet access at more than 100 cyber-salons across the island, though home Web service would remain greatly restricted.
Starting next Tuesday, people can sign up with state telecom Etecsa for temporary or permanent accounts to use one of the 118 centers, according to a measure enacted with its publication in the government's Official Gazette.
Until now, the Internet has been limited to places such as tourist hotels that charge $8 an hour for creaky WiFi, foreign-run companies, and some sectors of Cuban business and government. Residential dial-up accounts are rare and restricted.
"Great! I knew this was coming," said Camila Delgado, 44, a shop worker in Havana, adding, "There's still a ways to go to be like everywhere else on the planet. We don't have access at home, and the prices are prohibitive."
Indeed, some scoffed at the new cyber-centers' price tag of $4.50 an hour, a stiff fee for islanders whose state salaries average about $20 per month plus an array of subsidized goods and services.
"It's a real bargain," snarked a user on state news website Cuba Si, who gave the name Osvaldo Ulloa. "I mean, I work for a week, and then I can get online for an hour - fabulous."
Even for those who are already able to access the Web, some sites are censored - including pornography and politically objectionable content. Critics point to restrictions as an example of freedom infringement.
Earlier this year, Cuba began transmitting data via a fiber-optic cable strung from Venezuela in 2011, providing the island's first hardwired Internet connection to the outside world.