Cuba has one of the least favorable and tightly restricted Internet infrastructures in the world. For a start, understand that the general population hasn’t had widespread access to the Internet in the recent past. Their Internet infrastructure is horrendous, and they have one of the worst Internet penetration ratings. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For those that do have access to the Internet, they need to self-censor themselves to make sure they aren’t breaking any rules or posting any comments that could put them in harm’s way. Furthermore, the government has a tight grip on what users can and cannot access on the Internet through their governmental censorship programs. While it is true that their Internet penetration rate has drastically improved in the last few years, they still have a long way to go. Reporters Without Borders ranked them as one of the lowest countries in terms of Internet freedoms and the freedom of expression. Believe it or not, they were ranked 170 out of 180 countries in the 2014 report.
Though VPNs still remain the best way to combat governmental restrictions, there are two problems for the average Internet user. First of all, the general population doesn’t have a lot of disposable income and the exchange rates are not in their favor. To further compound this problem, a lot of average Internet users don’t have an international credit card that they can use to make online payments. In these situations, finding a provider that allows BitCoin payments is highly advantageous.
Generally speaking, however, Cuba’s Internet problems aren’t only domestic. In the recent past a lot of foreign nations had blocked incoming connections from the country’s block of IP addresses for various reasons revolving around hostility, trade, and politics. Though a VPN connection will help circumvent these restrictions, it wasn’t a viable option for most citizens until things changed a few years ago. Even though the government tightly controls their Internet access and the country, as a whole, lacks programs to provide high speed Internet connections for the majority of their population, new solutions have been sprouting up that help people connect to the Internet.
Internet Connection Solutions in Cuba
The first of these solutions is the government allowance for cyber cafes where users can pay an hourly rate for Internet access. Though this solution does have some flaws. The biggest problem is the cost of Internet when compared to the average wages that citizens earn. To connect to the domestic network, the rate can be as high as $1.50 per hour. If a user wants to access the global, public Internet, rates can climb as high as $7 to $10 per hour. While this may not sound like much, the average income per household is so low that it really isn’t feasible to spend that kind of money per hour for Internet.
This is where the second solution comes into play. An ad-hoc network, dubbed the ‘street net,’ has been created by citizens as a means to access the Internet for free. It is nothing more than an assortment of low-end networking equipment that is strung together to provide people with basic Internet access, but it is helping users connect. This network is technically illegal, but the authorities aren’t doing anything to stop it. While it is illegal, it seems to be tolerated.
Recent Changes and Advancements
Fortunately for Internet users in Cuba, things are rapidly changing. In 2013, the Obama administration opened cooperation opportunities that removed a lot of previous obstacles to the Cuban Internet. In addition, in the same year a fiber-optic network run underwater helped the country connect their Internet infrastructure with the rest of the world through Venezuela, meaning they are not as isolated as they once were. Things may be far from perfect, but they are certainly headed in the right direction and VPN access is becoming more feasible and critical when connecting to foreign services. So, let’s take a look at the best VPNs for Cuba.
VPN for Cuba – Top Picks:
ExpressVPN – Read Review
ExpressVPN is our top pick for users in Cuba due to the quality of their service, the speed and reliability of their connections, and their global network of servers present in 78 countries that will give you a lot of flexibility. Two other fantastic features of their service include phenomenal 24/7 customer support and a 30-day money back guarantee, but there are a couple drawbacks to their service. First of all, they are based out the US. This isn’t a problem unless you’re paranoid about them potentially forfeiting information to the N.S.A., but that likely wouldn’t matter if you’re not abusing your Internet connection to begin with. Secondly, though their service is higher quality than other providers, they do cost a little bit more per month.
Private Internet Access – Read Review
PIA VPN is the complete opposite of ExpressVPN in terms of pricing, and you can purchase their service for a mere $3.33 per month when you get a 1-year plan. Though they are considerably cheaper, they do still offer a fast and rock-solid service that you can count on. In addition, they improve upon ExpressVPN’s service by allowing you to connect up to 5 devices per user account. However, they have a shorter money back guarantee than ExpressVPN and they don’t have servers in as many countries. Their money back guarantee only lasts for 7 days, and to date they have servers in 24 countries. But they do have more servers per country, and to date the operate over 3,100 servers.
VPNArea – Read Review
VPNArea has been an up-and-coming service for some time and eventually developed into an industry competitor. Features of their service compete with the biggest names in the industry, and they are a great choice for users in Cuba owing to their anti-DNS leak prevention mechanisms. Like other providers, they permit up to 5 devices to connect simultaneously per account and they even have a 7-day free trial. Though they don’t have servers in as many countries as other providers, they do have a well-developed network of VPN servers present in 51+ countries. As time progresses, they will continue to expand their network, too. Lastly, note that you can get their service for only $4.92 per month.
TorGuard VPN – Read Review
Though Tor is a very famous way to browse the Internet through a network of obfuscating ‘proxy’ servers, TorGuard VPN is a service provider that incorporated Tor into their name. The company is based out of Panama, freeing them from potential interference by the US government, and they currently operate some 1200 VPN servers in over 42 countries. Like the last two providers, they will also allow up to 5 connections concurrently per user account, so you can secure all of your devices without the need of purchasing additional subscriptions. And they are reasonably priced at $5.00 per month, too.
VyprVPN – Read Review
VyprVPN carries the advantage for users in Cuba of being based out of Switzerland, so they also aren’t subject to interference from the US government. The most attractive feature of their service for users in Cuba is the ability to take advantage of their free trial to test the waters before you make a purchase. Though they only allow each account to connect up to 2 devices at the same time, they do provide a high degree of flexibility when considering global connection options since they have 700+ servers in over 50 countries. They aren’t the cheapest service on the market, but they aren’t the most expensive, either. They have a tiered pricing plan and you can get the pro version for only $6.25 per month.