People use mobile devices to connect to the Internet via WiFi in Havana July 2, 2015. (Xinhua/Joaquin Hernandez)
HAVANA, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- Cuba's state telecommunications company ETECSA on Monday announced it will launch a pilot program to connect 2,000 homes in the capital Havana to the Internet.
Home Internet access has until now been a luxury granted only to top officials and key professionals, such as doctors, journalists and academics, mainly due to a lack of infrastructure, with average Cubans connecting at Wi-Fi hotspots and cybercafes.
Ana Maria Mendez, a senior official at ETECSA, said in the coming days the selected residences in the city's old quarter will be wired, at no charge, so residents can connect from their homes, according to news website Cubadebate.
The homes were chosen for their access to infrastructure already put in place by ETECSA, she said.
"This Internet home access pilot program calls for a dedicated line for each customer and ADSL technology," she said.
Users will have a free access per month, and pay 1.50 CUC (1.50 U.S. dollars) per hour for any time over certain amount of data usage.
"This program will allow our company to assess ... the possibility of expanding the service to other areas of the country," said Mendez.
Last week, ETECSA and U.S. Internet giant Google signed an agreement designed to speed up local access to Google's online content.
ETECSA on Monday also said it was lowering the price of Wi-Fi access from 2 CUC an hour to 1.50 CUC (1.50 U.S. dollars).
U.S. sanctions against Cuba for years forced the country to connect to the Internet via satellite, which was very costly and limited the service, until in 2013 Venezuela helped the island access its own infrastructure by laying an underwater fiber-optic cable.
While the sanctions remain in place, Washington officially mended ties with Havana in 2015, and U.S. telecommunications companies have been taking advantage of the thaw to expand their market.