Cuba's state-run telecommunications company ETECSA announced on Jan. 31 that it is launching a pilot project to allow everyday citizens to order broadband Internet for their homes, a service until now only available to foreign executives.

ETECSA said it would cooperate with Chinese telecom operator Huawei to expand the island's fiber optic connections but prices would be announced in the future, CBS News reported. Still, the step is being hailed as a milestone in what the Verge has called one of the world's least connected countries.

Cuban Authorities Slowly Recognize Value of Internet

Beyond individual homes, cafés, bars and restaurants will also be allowed to order broadband service under the program. So far, common Cubans could only rely on antiquated dial-up connections or mobile plans to access state-run web services, in part because the fiber-optic access available to diplomats or employees of foreign companies had been restricted and prohibitively priced.

But the communist authorities in Havana, which like other autocratic governments have long been weary of the free exchange of views made possible by the Internet, now also seem to recognize the opportunities the Web could bring to the nation, a Jan. 26 Granma article suggested. The Internet could "help us generate spaces for collective thinking between Latin Americans because it shortens physical distances," the mouthpiece of the Communist Party argued.

U.S. Pushes New Submarine Cable for Island

Meanwhile, the U.S. government has suggested Cuban officials might be interested in a new submarine cable between Miami and Havana that would help improve the country's communications infrastructure, Agence France-Presse reported.

Daniel Sepúlveda, a deputy assistant secretary and coordinator for international communications and information policy at the State Department, told the newswire that U.S. and Cuban officials were actively engaged in discussions on the topic.

"We are incentivizing two things - analysis and favorable perspectives of a submarine Internet cable between Miami and Havana," Sepúlveda told AFP. "And there are various proposals to the Cuban government to do that."