News and Facts about Cuba

Google Will Accelerate But Not Expand Internet Access In Cuba

Google Will Accelerate But Not Expand Access In Cuba 14ymedio,
Zunilda Mata

14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 13 December 2016 – The news made the
headlines and generated a wave of enthusiasm. The agreement signed this
Monday between the US information giant Google and the
Telecommunications Company of Cuba () will improve the experience
of Cuban websurfers, but will not, in the short term, affect the number
of people who can access the internet from the island.

Google has taken a historic step to overcome official suspicion in the
telecommunications sector. Google will install servers in Cuba that will
increase the speed and quality of web connections, an improvement which
will enable better access to services such as Gmail, YouTube and Google

However, accelerating, in this case, does not mean expand. The agreement
signed by the chief executive of the Cuban state monopoly, Mayra
Arevich, and Google CEO Eric Schmidt will only benefit those who already
are connecting to the web from the island.

Cuba is at the forefront of the list of countries with the least
internet penetration in the Western hemisphere. An hour of navigation
from a state-provided wifi zone costs the equivalent of two days pay for
a professional, and is plagued by crashes, service faults, and hackers
who wirelessly steal the balance on your internet card, as well as being
subject to the physical theft of phones, laptops and tablets by thieves
who haunt the wifi zones for this purpose.

“This agreement allows ETECSA to use our technology to reduce latency to
locally deliver some of our most popular content and a higher bandwidth,
for example YouTube videos,” Google said in a statement.

Once stored on servers within Cuba, that content will reach internet
users up to 10 times faster, according to expert predictions. But the
agreement does not affect the customers’ bandwidth or allow access to
sites that the government of keeps under strict censorship.

Google has been exploring service on the island since 2014, when Schmidt
visited Cuba along with other executives and interviewed journalists
with 14ymedio, students at the of Information Sciences in
Havana, and Cuban officials. Shortly after that trip, the company opened
its products to Cuban users on the island – who previously could not
access them – including products such as Google Chrome, Google Play and
Google Analytics.

The news of the agreement with the US company spread by word of mouth
among Cubans and was presented in the official media as an achievement
by the government “to improve the computerization of Cuban society,” but
few spoke about the details.

“I hope that now the ability to surf the internet from cellphones is
closer,” said Vosvel Camejo, a customer of the only telephone company
allowed in the country, and for whom Google is the only entity that can
save the country “from underdevelopment.”

The signing of the agreement comes a few weeks from Republican Donald
Trump’s inauguration as of the United States, on 20 January
2017. President-elect Trump has been inconsistent in his position on the
process of normalization of relations with the island, moved forward by
his predecessor, Barack Obama. Google has rushed to sign the agreement,
given the uncertainty presented by the tycoon’s arrival in the White House.

For the Government of Havana, the clock is ticking off certain
emergencies in telecommunications. In February 2011, a fiber optic cable
connecting the island to reached land on Siboney Beach in
eastern Cuba. This cable carries the major flow of data entering and
leaving Cuba.

Access from home is only allowed for a very small group of officials,
professionals with links to officialdom, and foreign residents of the
island. “The ideal would be for this agreement to also bring internet to
Cuban homes, so that the country can develop all the talent of its
people,” says Camejo.

For now, the company, based in California, has committed to improve the
browsing experience, a step that can be very important for the
development of the independent sector that produces audiovisuals, and
for the “YouTubers” who have begun to emerge in the country.

Independent organizations such as the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU)
frequently use video services to publish reports, interviews and images
of repression in the east. With the new agreement, their presence and
effectiveness on the web can grow significantly.

Source: Google Will Accelerate But Not Expand Internet Access In Cuba
14ymedio, Zunilda Mata – Translating Cuba –

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