The mobile Internet connection in Cuba is still cut off three days after the protests, although a minority has recovered data service and some young people are managing to access the network with the help of VPN platforms and some clever tricks.
Until Wednesday, most Cubans were still without Internet access on their phones, which in practice means an almost total blackout, since only a small minority of households on the island can afford a wi-fi connection.
Faced with this, citizens, especially young people, from all over the country resort to VPN services — such as Psiphon or Thunder — and tricks to circumvent censorship and access 3G and 4G mobile data networks, controlled by the state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa.
“You have to activate the data and then the VPN, and set it to the U.S. region. Then put the phone in airplane mode for 5 seconds and when you remove it, it connects,” explained to Efe in Havana a 26-year-old woman who managed to access the Internet on Wednesday after being disconnected for two and a half days.
Exceptional cases have also been reported of Cubans intermittently recovering connection without the help of VPN platforms, although they could not access some apps such as WhatsApp.
Private wi-fi networks and in public spaces did not stop working in Cuba, although with intermittent WhatsApp restrictions.
Mobile internet service was disabled on Sunday as protests by Cubans spread across the country, encouraged by a video in which residents of San Antonio de los Baños (30 km east of Havana) took to the streets to protest the lack of food and medicine, power outages, and lack of freedoms in more than sixty years.
The dictatorship has shut down the internet to prevent this from happening again. In addition, the data cutoff has interrupted the routine of some of the country’s workers, as telecommuting has become widespread during the pandemic in some sectors such as education, where face-to-face classes have been cancelled.
Many Cubans regret not having been able to communicate with their relatives abroad for days, since the Internet is the most common way for citizens inside the island to keep in touch with the diaspora.
Etecsa has not given any explanation for the blackout and neither had the dictatorship until Tuesday when the foreign minister, Bruno Rodriguez, assimilated it to “electricity interruptions” and difficulties in food or transportation.
“It is true that there is a lack of internet, but there is also a lack of medicines,” said the foreign minister, in a mockery of the citizens.