Internet for Everyone in Cuba: Myths and Realities

Yenisel Rodríguez Perez

HAVANA TIMES – It seems as though decisive steps to make Internet services widely available in Cuba will finally be taken. Much pressure has built up in connection with this issue as a result of the heated disputes that are probably taking place between different interests groups on the island.

Who could doubt that cyberspace is the political arena where the country’s sociopolitical and economic fate is to be defined?

Speaking of a Cuban civil society within this context, to then ascribe it a leading role in this struggle, is entirely naive. “Civil society” continues to be a euphemism in Cuba.

Using the concept of civil society to refer to the pressure exerted on the government by people is placing barely effective initiatives undertaken by individuals or small groups (all of them minorities that are invisible at street level) under a single category.

These political initiatives, though defined in their political aims, have a very limited sociopolitical impact owing to the atomization of our society and its highly depoliticized nature.

It would therefore be more precise to speak of different interest groups linked to power centers (and I don’t know whether I’m still being too optimistic with this description).

Ultimately, it is unquestionable that the steps being taken towards making Internet services more accessible reflects the consolidation of neo-liberal and pro-Right tendencies in Cuba’s political panorama.

We could think of a map that situates the government’s passive and leading opponents. We first come across those who wish for total and unrestricted Internet access in order to facilitate the complete overthrow of the Castro regime, following the logic of the Arab Spring.

On the other extreme we have those who oppose all changes and are interested in preserving the status quo on the basis of misinformation and the centralization of global information flows, represented by the governmental gerontocracy and their lackeys.

Last but not least, we have the reformists, interested in more or less far-reaching and organized reforms in the area of Internet access, who aspire to efficient and “democratic” government control, inspired by a center-right type of capitalism that seems unfeasible in a world as crisis-ridden as ours.

I wonder about the revolutionary Left, about Cuban anarchism. Has any path been traced by resistance and recycling, through which we hope to be able to channel all of our strength, in the interests of a future with greater access to the world-wide web? Will we be able to take advantage of the loopholes left unguarded by the powerful in their political maneuvers and their strategy of everyone-for-himself?

As an individual, I have been adjusting my personal expectations in connection with all of this. I know that the Internet is not a magic lamp that comes to fulfill our wishes, much less if our wishes are of a political nature.

Technology can point towards the distant horizon, but it is ultimately mired in daily social relations (relations we could ironically refer to as “analogic”).

What we are unable to overcome through social praxis, face-to-face among individuals or before the social institutions around us, no Facebook, Twitter or Saint Google is going to grant us.

I have come across very little reflection and political awareness on the Internet. Rather, I’ve run into the same realities that one can see from my window, in the dirty and poetic neighborhood where I live: plenty of gossip and a whole lot of profanity.

Let us improve our aim!

Yenisel Rodriguez

Yenisel Rodriguez Perez: I have lived in Cuba my entire life, except for several months in 2013 when I was in Miami with my father. Despite the 90 miles that separate Havana and Miami, I find profound reasons in both for political and community activism. My encounter with socio-cultural anthropology eight years ago prepared me for a commitment of love for cultural diversity.

2 thoughts on “Internet for Everyone in Cuba: Myths and Realities

  • For years the Castro regime used the satellite link to Internet and its limited bandwidth as its excuse for not allowing people on the web. For more than 4 years now Cuba is connected by cable and nothing has changed exposing the lie so often repeated by Castro apologists.

    Some background:

    The US cable: 1991

    Cuba was first connected to Internet using an existing underwater cable of Sprint and financed by the Heinz foundation of John Kerry’s wife:

    “The Heinz Endowments, two foundations with combined assets of more than $1 billion, have donated $8 million to the Tides Foundation and Center since 1994, but the foundations insist the money went to projects in Pennsylvania.
    Critics say, however, that Tides money helped Castro’s Cuba by donating funds to the Institute for Global Communications, whose Canadian affiliate in 1991 used an undersea cable link from Havana to Sprint in the United States – connecting Cuba to the Internet.”

    “The Tides Foundation contributed $13,000 to the Institute for Global Communications between 1993 and 2002, Tides spokesman Christopher Herrera said in a statement. Tides’ Canadian affiliate in 1991 used an undersea cable link from Havana to Sprint in the United States to
    connect Cuba to the Internet.”

    Satelite: 1996

    Note: this author seem to have been unaware of the sprint cable connection.
    It is indeed not widely known.

    In October 1996 Cuba first connected full time to the Internet, and in 1998 Cuba had only a single 64-Kbps satellite connection run by Sprint in Florida and allowed by an exception for communications to the U.S. trade embargo.

    Currently Cuba still uses its satellite connection with a 65 Mb/s upload bandwidth and a 124 Mb/s download bandwidth for the entire country.

    Fibre optics:

    Other firms tried to get in to Cuba with fiber optics from the US and Jamaica, every time nothing ever got realized even after US approval.

    1999: Projecto Unidad

    In 1999 the planned construction of a 40 Gbps Undersea Cable to Cuba was announced by Quest Net Corp. While Quest stated there were no legal impediments in the US, Cuba never allowed it.

    “The “Projecto Unidad” system is being designed primarily for data and will only carry Internet and data traffic. Quest Net Corp. therefore will not be involved in settlement of telephone tariffs, which is a point of contention between the USA and CUBA. After preliminary contact with OFAC (Office of Foreign Asset Control), FCC (Federal Communications Commission), State and Commerce Departments, the management of the Company is confident that there is no violation of the Cuban Democratic Act in its proposal as Internet traffic is already widely available between the United States and Cuba. The company will not begin construction until such time as permission has been secured and the proper licenses have been obtained from both governments. Although no assurances can be given, the company believes that it will be able to comply with all requirements in order to complete this project.”

    Jamaica 2006

    published: Friday | August 18, 2006 — Ashford W. Meikle, Business Reporter —
    Jamaica Gleaner —
    TCCC Jamaica, one of three companies licensed to construct and operate
    an international sub-sea fibre-optic cable facility to Jamaica, wants
    to build another link from Cuba, and has asked the Office of Utilities
    Regulation (OUR) to amend its licence accordingly.

    US 2009

    In 2009 various initiatives were undertaken in the US to connect Cuba, all refused by the Castro regime. A proposed cable for Internet from Key West to Havana was not allowed by the Castro regime.

    “Cuba: No deal with US telecoms”, GlobalPost, Nick Miroff, October 18, 2009 ,
    Cuba rebuffs key Obama initiative that would have opened the island to better cell phone and internet service.
    Source: Cuba: No deal on US telecommunications | GlobalPost –

    El régimen insinúa que no aceptará un cable de internet desde EE UU y esgrime razones de ‘seguridad nacional’ – Noticias – Cuba – (26 October 2009)

    Fiber-optic cable to link Key West and Havana – Business – (13 October 2009)

    Venezuela 2011

    In February 2011 the undersea cable from Venezuela reaches Cuba.

    Jamaica 2013

    “Fiber optic cable linking Cuba to Jamaica active”, Miami Herald, By Juan O. Tamayo, Tuesday, 05.21.13

    Cuba has activated a branch of its submarine fiber optic cable that
    connects to Jamaica, giving it greater bandwidth and a backup in case the main leg to Venezuela is not available, according to a U.S. company that monitors global Internet traffic.

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