HAVANA TIMES — I’m still not quite sure what really happened with the famous underwater cable between Cuba and Venezuela, that fiber optic line that was going to connect our country to the global broadband network.
Internet service remains inaccessible to most people who live here on the island. It’s a problem of both access and connectivity that was aggravated by the recent government action establishing hourly rates that exclude the vast majority of Cubans from the benefits of “being online.”
But the non-functioning underwater cable is only part of the problem because, even without that faster connection with the “outside world,” nothing is preventing us from being well interconnected within the Cuban archipelago.
As was demonstrated at the recent Critical Observatory Social Forum by Alien Garcia (an activist with Blackhat4all magazine, a technological popularization project), using only those means provided within Cuba, it’s possible to organize a number of services (from booking interprovincial bus tickets to social blogging and virtual conferences).
Relatedly, I recently learned from the Cuban television news that the island’s railroad company is installing its own fiber optic system along the railway lines for its use. Likewise — according to other sources — the electric company is doing the same. In short, the ETECSA telecommunications company is putting in place an extensive fiber optic system all across the country.
This means that soon there will be not just one, but at least three cable systems available for increasing connectivity. Moreover, experts are saying that the fiber optic lines being laid will have bandwidths that under the present circumstances will never become saturated.
My question is the following: Don’t we have enough resources (already installed or about to be installed) that could break the monopoly of a “single cable” to improve internet connectivity all across Cuba?
Currently there are several local suppliers of connectivity in the country, yet these only cater to the needs of specific sectors: Infomed (public health), Ceniai (science and technology), Cubarte (culture), Enet (ETECSA service), among others.
They each have trained staffs that I think they could be “upgraded” to begin providing services to the public – ordinary citizens.
This would imply negotiating, without bureaucratic hurdles, with the three owners of fiber optic cable systems and involving (a dream?) the participation of their workers (those involved with the fiber optic cable and the service providers) not only in the business revenues but also in business management.
Those in the know say that both the fiber optic cable and the number of service providers are good, but that the Cubans servers won’t be able to handle a sudden increase in the flow of data (which is what they say happened with the Cubarte server, or was it Infomed?, one February 14th).
My response would be that there will have to be recapitalization. We will have to install new servers, like other countries have done. This can only be done with more money, which is what would ensure the opening and expansion of services by each provider. Investment in a national cable system is already being prioritized, and not just one – but three.
One last point: I just read the tell-all novel Enemigo (The Enemy), by Cuban writer Raul Capote, who worked as a double agent for Cuban counterintelligence (as “Daniel”) and the CIA (as “Paul”).
Capote discusses how he was involved in a US project to generate Wi-Fi reception in Havana by planting a small number of devices in key points all across the Cuban capital.
Could it be possible to do that without the help of the CIA? Surely the Chinese sell such gadgets. Who knows, maybe even the Wi-Fi system that “Paul”/“Daniel” was going to install could be built with components “MADE IN CHINA.”