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Jumping on the Google Bandwagon in Cuba

Jumping on the Google Bandwagon in Cuba / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar
Posted on March 31, 2016

14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 31 March 2016 – “Is Google working yet?”
the young man asked on Tuesday at the Organic Romerillo Museum (MOR).
Outside the cultural center managed by the artist Alexis Leyva, known as
Kcho, dozens of people gathered, excited about the launch of web
browsing room, However, the place hasn’t opened its doors to the public
and the employees respond evasively about the opening date.

The project, under the name of Google+Kcho.Mor, was announced during the
US ’s visit to the island, and has been the subject of several
TV reports and articles in the official press. Its services will join a
free wireless network through which the artist shares the connection he
contracts with the state Telecommunications Company ().

MOR is abuzz these days with people coming and going. Some are workers
who are putting the final touches on the “technology center,” which the
first internaut has not yet been able to access. Closed and surrounded
by mystery, the browsing room is the center of rumors and speculation.

“When it’s working there will be priority for students who come through
their schools,” explained a worker in response to the insistent
questions of several frustrated users. Among them were two teenagers who
had crossed the city from Cojimar for “some free hours.”

The new location has been described by the press as a site with public
computers and a connection speed 70 times faster than that offered in
the WiFi zones provided by the state monopoly ETECSA. A luxury in a
nation where the broadband penetration rate does not exceed 1%.

With the collaboration of the US software giant Google, Kcho is becoming
the first Cuban to reach an agreement of this kind and the only
non-state internet provider, which he has achieved because of his
ideological fidelity to the government and his strong ties to the

Evelio, a regular user of the Kcho WiFi zone, complained Tuesday that
the new service is still not working. “They already had the opening with
great fanfare,” and “even the TV reporters came here that day but as far
as I know the only ones allowed in so far are the already scheduled
delegations,” he says with annoyance.

The young man, who lives near the studio, explains that he comes “at
five in the morning to be able to download movies and videos,” because
of the congestion on the network that develops as the day goes on and
there is a high influx of users. “At that hour, it works like a cannon,”
he says, showing on his phone the titles of movies such as Game of
Thrones and House of Cards, that he downloaded the previous morning.

Evelio also lends a hand to those who want to open an email account or
look at the US Embassy web page to check on the status of a visa. “If
someone wants to give me something for a little help, I accept it,” he
lets drop, smiling.

The young man doesn’t have many illusions about the new premises which,
according to the official media, will have the appearance of an internet
café with 20 Chromebook laptops that work off direct connections to the
cloud. A new navigation experience for most Cubans, accustomed to slow
connections and using the Windows operating system.

“There is so much need for the internet that this can’t cope,” says
Evelio, a few yards from the newly painted ship where Cubans expect that
Google’s new Havana heart will soon be beating.

Source: Jumping on the Google Bandwagon in Cuba / 14ymedio, Luz Escobar
| Translating Cuba –

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