In a symbolic move resulting from President Barack Obama's efforts to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, Netflix has made its monthly video-streaming service available on the island for $7.99 per month.

According to Cuba's National Statistics and Information Bureau, the average monthly Cuban salary is approximately $17, meaning the service will remain out of reach to most of its citizens. 

Even if money were plentiful for entertainment luxuries like on-demand film and television, Cuba's internet infrastructure is woefully inadequate to handle streaming services. Presently, only 31 percent of Cubans have access to a computer at home, work, or school.

And government control over the Web remains antiquated and tight, says The Guardian: "[M]embers of the public are now able to access national websites for $0.60 per hour and international sites for $4.50 per hour — a significant reduction from the previous rate of $6 per hour."

Still, the change in diplomatic relations marks an unexpected turnaround in the country's fierce criticism of American foreign policy. Several years ago, Bolivian President Evo Morales affirmed his alliance with Cuba in an interview with Big Think, saying the region's stance against the United States was unwavering.

"I am quite an admirer of Fidel (Castro). For me, Fidel is the first and the best man in solidarity with the peoples of the world.  Fidel shares not just what he does not need, but every little thing he has. That is called solidarity. ... So the agreements between us, more than that, any cooperation means unconditional credit, while the US and some capitalist countries want to help us under conditions, under blackmail."

 

What a difference a few years make. For its part, Netflix says it is not in negotiations with the Cuban government over censorship and that its offerings will be determined entirely by what rights it can secure to content. Three of the company's original series—House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Marco Polo — are already available to Cuban subscribers.

For now, that will remain limited to the country's elite. Since credit and debit cards are not typical on the island, only citizens with international bank accounts can even register for service.

But as Sanja Kelly of the internet watchdog Freedom House acknowledged, having Netflix service at all is symbolic of a Cuba that is more open to (American) free market forces.

Read more at the The Guardian.

Photo credit: Shutterstock