Netflix now available in Cuba but can anyone afford or access it?
LOS GATOS, USA -- Starting on Monday, people in Cuba with internet connections and access to international payment methods are now able to subscribe to Netflix and watch a curated selection of popular movies and TV shows.
However, the expansion is largely symbolic because, although Netflix will be available throughout the entire country of Cuba, it will require broadband internet access and an international credit or debit card, which hardly anyone in Cuba has.
Furthermore, the normal Netflix monthly charge of $7.99 represents almost half of the average monthly wage in Cuba of $17.
Nevertheless, William LeoGrande, an expert on Cuba at American University, said, "The important thing about this is it's forward-looking."
"It's not going to affect very many people immediately, but as Internet access on the island improves, which is something the Cuban government is committed to and that Obama's action makes easier, more and more people will be able to take advantage. This is exactly the kind of development the president envisioned when he made policy changes back in December,” he added.
On the other hand, one regional observer described the announcement as either poor research, development and strategic planning on the part of Netflix, or “an absolute insult.”
Netflix said it will offer a broad range of global entertainment to Cuban consumers as internet access improves and credit and debit cards become more widely available.
Netflix began offering its service in Latin America in 2011 and now counts over five million members, accessing millions of hours of films and TV series.
Meanwhile, according to Freedom House, Cuba’s internet has “exceptionally slow connectivity”. Availability is sparse and prices are high. Internet penetration is estimated at about 2.8 million, or about 26% of the country’s population of 11.3 million.
Although the Cuban government completed a high-speed, submarine internet cable from Venezuela in 2013, the service had not yet been utilised to full capacity. The country is reportedly years away from the standard of internet service enjoyed by Americans.
It is also unclear if or how Netflix might be subject to censorship by the Cuban government, which closely monitors the country’s internet.