News and Facts about Cuba

Cuba’s Phone Monopoly – Between Capitalism And Paternalism

Cuba’s Phone Monopoly: Between Capitalism And Paternalism / 14ymedio,
Reinaldo Escobar
Posted on February 8, 2016

14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 8 February 2016 — Applying the
toughest rules of the market on the one hand and presenting itself as
paternalistic on the other, is a game well played by the
Telecommunications Company of Cuba (). While the benefits to its
customers arrive drop by drop, the rates are applied strictly to the
letter, without the least compassion and with no relationship to Cuban

The new Wifi zones that will be opened this year, along with the timid
beginning of installing in private homes, barely silences
customer complaints over the high costs of cellphones and the
deficiencies in the service. The news that five Cuban Convertible Peso
(CUC) recharges will get a bonus of 10 extra minutes and 20 domestic
text messages, does not appease the company’s critics. [Ed. note: 5 CUC
is more than $5, while wages for state workers generally don’t exceed
$20 a month.]

During a press conference, Tania Valezquez, ETECSA’s direction of sales
and marketing, repeated that they are doing nothing “to arbitrarily
lower prices… (without) the infrastructure to support and respond to the
increase in demand that would occur.” An affirmation that raises the
question, “And what have you done with all the money you’ve earned over
the last decades?”

The confessions of this functionary make it clear that the “principles”
that the government appeals to when they ask private sellers to lower
the prices of farm products, do not apply in the case of phone service.
If the state company does not have the real capacity to improve the
levels of traffic, it regulates consumption through high prices.

What the functionary did not say, or was not allowed to say, is that
this service is not intended to benefit workers who earn 500 Cuban pesos
(CUP) a month, because they would have to spend a quarter of their
monthly salary — a full week’s wages — to buy the cheapest recharge card.

Nevertheless, the number of cellphone customers in Cuba is increasing,
with more than three million mobile lines in service at the end of 2015,
tangible proof that the amount of money in the hands of the citizenry is
not directly tied to the system of wages. But ETECSA just can’t
understand that these are customers, not beneficiaries of a giveaway,
who complain that they do not receive a quality of service that
corresponds to the high rates they are paying for it.

It is time for the country’s only telephone company to set aside the
contradictory discourse of presenting itself as a company that is doing
a great favor to Cubans by installing a dozen Wifi zones across the
whole country. Its extortionate prices and its status as a monopoly
place it squarely the worst of savage capitalists that the Cuban
authorities claim to abominate.

Source: Cuba’s Phone Monopoly: Between Capitalism And Paternalism /
14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar | Translating Cuba –

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