Last Wednesday, on the back page of the newspaper Granma, the government announced the start-up on the laying of underwater fiber optic cable that will reach our island from Venezuela. This will eventually make Internet access much faster than what we’ve used up until now, an expensive satellite connection.
But why is it that news which should be a reason for joy, seems to be irrelevant? Not only that, everyone feels skeptical about the real possibility of eventually having open access to the Internet.
The Cuban government, with a pace that has given snails a new sense of self-respect, has been postponing the day when we can sit around at home chatting for hours with friends, browse through store catalogs or download movies and songs of interest.
The government seems like a father who doesn’t want his children to grow up and therefore continues to hold the reins taut on all of their movement. How long will this Peter Pan Syndrome in reverse go on? Fearful that we’ll begin to know more about ourselves through sources that were not created by it, the government has been depriving us of a right that we possessed from the very moment the Internet was created.
A friend told me that years ago, when she worked for the Spanish company Telefonica, she witnessed how its directors approached the island’s leadership about bringing cable to Cuba in an operation where they would assume all the costs; nonetheless, they received no response. Similarly, last year US businesspeople proposed an option less expensive than the Venezuelan plan; they could lay cable from the US, but —just as our government has conditioned us concerning anything involving the United States— the offer was flatly refused.
Added to such resistance, in almost all workplaces that have access to the Internet here, the State has blocked social networking sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, as well as instant messaging and other internet features. People often only have the use of national e-mail services —fully monitored— which in some cases can access a slow Google search engine.
What is certain in terms of the Internet in Cuba is that not even the news of the imminent arrival of a fiber optic line to the island has been able to raise the expectations of people where the government decides on whom to grant landline telephones.
Despite the prospect for a “quicker” cable connection, you don’t have to be that intelligent to realize that what’s most likely is that our access to the Web will continue to be very, very slow.