Photos: For Cubans, Wi-Fi means family and a link to the world beyond

Just two years ago most of Cuba was offline with internet access limited to a select few. The introduction of public Wi-Fi hostpots in public places has now whet the Cuban appetite for internet connectivity which provides them a means to connect to emigrated relatives, and perspectives beyond the state run media.

UPDATED ON OCT 25, 2017 10:44 AM IST 10 Photos
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People connect to the internet at an outdoor hotspot in Havana, Cuba. At dusk, when the worst of the Caribbean heat has subsided, parks around Cuba fill with families video chatting with loved ones abroad or scrolling through social media --their animated faces lit by telephone and tablet screens. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

People connect to the internet at an outdoor hotspot in Havana, Cuba. At dusk, when the worst of the Caribbean heat has subsided, parks around Cuba fill with families video chatting with loved ones abroad or scrolling through social media --their animated faces lit by telephone and tablet screens. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 25, 2017 10:44 AM IST
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A crowd is engrossed in their mobile devices at a hotspot in Havana, Cuba. The introduction of Wi-Fi hotspots in Cuban public spaces two years ago has transformed the Communist-run island that had been mostly offline. Nearly half the population of 11 million connected at least once last year. This exposure has whet Cubans’ appetite for better and cheaper access to the internet. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

A crowd is engrossed in their mobile devices at a hotspot in Havana, Cuba. The introduction of Wi-Fi hotspots in Cuban public spaces two years ago has transformed the Communist-run island that had been mostly offline. Nearly half the population of 11 million connected at least once last year. This exposure has whet Cubans’ appetite for better and cheaper access to the internet. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 25, 2017 10:44 AM IST
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Claudia Espinosa, 20 (R), and her mother Maribel Sosa, speak to relatives in the US at a hotspot in Havana. ‘A lot has changed,’ said 54-year-old Sosa, having stood for an hour at the corner of a park, laughing and gesticulating at her phone’s screen. She recalled how queuing all night to use a public telephone to speak with her brother for a few minutes after he emigrated to Florida in the 1980s. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

Claudia Espinosa, 20 (R), and her mother Maribel Sosa, speak to relatives in the US at a hotspot in Havana. ‘A lot has changed,’ said 54-year-old Sosa, having stood for an hour at the corner of a park, laughing and gesticulating at her phone’s screen. She recalled how queuing all night to use a public telephone to speak with her brother for a few minutes after he emigrated to Florida in the 1980s. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 25, 2017 10:44 AM IST
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Dancers use an internet hotspot before performing at the Carnival of Havana. Given the relative expense of connecting to the internet, Cubans use it mostly to stay in touch with relatives and friends. Although prices have dropped, the $1.50 hourly tariff represents 5% of the average monthly state salary of $30. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

Dancers use an internet hotspot before performing at the Carnival of Havana. Given the relative expense of connecting to the internet, Cubans use it mostly to stay in touch with relatives and friends. Although prices have dropped, the $1.50 hourly tariff represents 5% of the average monthly state salary of $30. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 25, 2017 10:44 AM IST
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A man sits on his doorstep to connect to a nearby internet hotspot. A tiny share of homes has had broadband access until now, subject to government permission granted to professionals such as academics and journalists. The state telecom monopoly has vowed to hook up the whole island and connected several hundred Havana homes late last year as a pilot project. In September, it said it would roll the service out nationwide by the end of 2017. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

A man sits on his doorstep to connect to a nearby internet hotspot. A tiny share of homes has had broadband access until now, subject to government permission granted to professionals such as academics and journalists. The state telecom monopoly has vowed to hook up the whole island and connected several hundred Havana homes late last year as a pilot project. In September, it said it would roll the service out nationwide by the end of 2017. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 25, 2017 10:44 AM IST
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People make a video call inside a car. The dome light is on to provide better lighting for the call. Havana says it has been slow to develop network infrastructure because of high costs, attributed partly to the US trade embargo. Critics say the government fears losing control. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

People make a video call inside a car. The dome light is on to provide better lighting for the call. Havana says it has been slow to develop network infrastructure because of high costs, attributed partly to the US trade embargo. Critics say the government fears losing control. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 25, 2017 10:44 AM IST
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A man connects to an internet hotspot at the sea front at the Malecon in Havana. The quality of connections is often good only at specific spots and when fewer users are connected. Otherwise, the screen tends to freeze mid-chat. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

A man connects to an internet hotspot at the sea front at the Malecon in Havana. The quality of connections is often good only at specific spots and when fewer users are connected. Otherwise, the screen tends to freeze mid-chat. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 25, 2017 10:44 AM IST
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Tourist guide Daniel Hernandez, 26, sits on his Russian-made car speaking to his girlfriend who lives in Britain, at a hotspot in Havana. ‘There’s absolutely no privacy here,’ said Hernandez. ‘When I have sensitive things to talk about, I try shutting myself into my car and talking quietly.’ (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

Tourist guide Daniel Hernandez, 26, sits on his Russian-made car speaking to his girlfriend who lives in Britain, at a hotspot in Havana. ‘There’s absolutely no privacy here,’ said Hernandez. ‘When I have sensitive things to talk about, I try shutting myself into my car and talking quietly.’ (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 25, 2017 10:44 AM IST
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A man connects to a hotspot at the sea front in Havana. In Cuba, the state has the monopoly on print and broadcast media. These hotspots allow users to skim the internet for news and outside perspectives. Among the crowds, black market vendors weave in and out, trying to hawk pre-paid scratchcards allowing Wi-Fi access. The ping of incoming messages and ring of calls fill the air. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

A man connects to a hotspot at the sea front in Havana. In Cuba, the state has the monopoly on print and broadcast media. These hotspots allow users to skim the internet for news and outside perspectives. Among the crowds, black market vendors weave in and out, trying to hawk pre-paid scratchcards allowing Wi-Fi access. The ping of incoming messages and ring of calls fill the air. (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 25, 2017 10:44 AM IST
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A few meters further on, Rene Almeida, 62, sat in his taxi checking email. He said he felt lucky that his two children had moved to the US where communications are better than ever. It was only in 2008 that the government first allowed Cubans to own cell phones. He too complained of the lack of privacy and the expense. ‘It’s better than nothing,’ he said. ‘But it should improve. It will.’ (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

A few meters further on, Rene Almeida, 62, sat in his taxi checking email. He said he felt lucky that his two children had moved to the US where communications are better than ever. It was only in 2008 that the government first allowed Cubans to own cell phones. He too complained of the lack of privacy and the expense. ‘It’s better than nothing,’ he said. ‘But it should improve. It will.’ (Alexandre Meneghini / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON OCT 25, 2017 10:44 AM IST
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