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Cuba allows Internet access at Home, a rarity in a Country with one of the lowest Internet penetration Rates in the World

About 5 percent of Cubans are estimated to enjoy internet at home, which requires government permission

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Retired teacher Margarita Marquez, 67, uses the internet after it was recently installed at her home in old Havana, Cuba, Dec. 29, 2016. (VOA)

Downtown Havana resident Margarita Marquez says she received a special Christmas gift this year: web access at home, a rarity in a country with one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world.

Marquez, a 67-year-old retired university professor, was among those selected by the government two weeks ago to participate in a pilot project bringing the web into the homes of 2,000 inhabitants of the historic center of the island’s capital.

Most of Communist-ruled Cuba’s 11.2 million inhabitants have access to internet only at Wi-Fi hotspots, and only then if they can afford the $1.50 hourly tariff that represents around 5 percent of the average monthly state salary.

About 5 percent of Cubans are estimated to enjoy internet at home, which requires government permission. This is usually granted mainly to academics, doctors and intellectuals.

A dream come true, until March

“It’s like a dream come true,” said Marquez, who lives with her sister in a second-story flat in a colonial-era building. “To be in touch with the outside world is important.”

Her 80-year-old sister, Leonor Franco, said the news that they had been selected came as a surprise and she was excited to be surfing the web for the first time.

“I had never had any experience of internet,” she said, seated in front of a laptop she has owned for two years without web access, searching for videos of her favorite singers on YouTube.

She said she wanted to learn how to surf the web properly so she could make the most of the experiment, and for as long as the government provided free internet access.

“From March we will have to start paying and we don’t know if we will be able to continue. So at least we are going to enjoy January and February,” she said.

Cost drops but still high

While the cost of internet has dropped in recent years, it is still prohibitive for most Cubans.

Cuba says it has been slow to develop network infrastructure because of high costs in part because of the U.S. trade embargo. Critics say the real reason is fear of losing control.

Before Wi-Fi signals became available last year, broadband internet access had been limited largely to desktops at state internet parlors and pricy hotels.

However, the government has said it wants to ensure everyone has access and has installed 237 Wi-Fi hotspots so far. In September, it announced it would install Wi-Fi along Havana’s picturesque seafront boulevard, the Malecon.

“There are many places now where you can go and sit and connect along the Malecon,” said Eliecer Samada as he sat on the stone wall lining the boulevard, checking social media on his phone. “We’re happy with this.” (VOA)

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Spying Charges On 2 Ex-Twitter Employees for Saudi Arabia

2 former twitter employees were charged with spying for Saudi Arabia

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Spying for Saudi Arabia
Two former Twitter employees have been charged with spying for the Saudi Arabia government. Pixabay

Raising concerns that American technology firms might be exposed to foreign governments, two former Twitter employees have been charged with spying for the Saudi Arabia government and the Kingdom’s royal family, according to the US Justice Department.

The two former Twitter staffers, Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi national and Ahmad Abouammo, a US citizen, used their access at the micro-blogging giant to gather sensitive and non-public information on dissidents of the Saudi regime, the Justice Department said in a criminal complaint.

The case, unsealed in San Francisco federal court, underscores allegations the Saudi government tries to control anti-regime voices abroad. It also recalls a move reportedly directed by the country’s controversial leader to weaponise online platforms against critics, CNN Business reported on Thursday.

Spying
A US citizen, used their access at the micro-blogging giant to gather sensitive and non-public information on dissidents of the Saudi regime. Pixabay

One of the two people is reportedly an associate of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — who the CIA has concluded likely ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last year.

“The criminal complaint unsealed today alleges that Saudi agents mined Twitter’s internal systems for personal information about known Saudi critics and thousands of other Twitter users,” US Attorney David Anderson said in a statement.

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Another man, named Ahmed Almutairi, who is also from Saudi Arabia, allegedly acted as a go-between to the two Twitter staffers and the Saudi government, which according to the complaint rewarded the men with hundreds of thousands of dollars and, for one man, a luxury Hublot watch, the report added. (IANS)