Cuba Keeps Private Internet on Hold

viceministro-wilfredo-gonzá
Wilfredo González, vice minister of communications. Photo: M. H. Lagarde/Cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES — Cuban authorities ruled out today widespread Internet access to homes on the island, despite the expansion of public infrastructure, reported dpa news.

“It is foreseen that [someday] Cubans may have a connection at home, but the initial priority under the current circumstances, is for public access,” at government cybercafés, said Cuban Vice Minister of Communications, Wilfredo Gonzalez Vidal, in an interview published today in the official Granma newspaper.

The aim is “to reach a greater number of people with the least investment,” he said.

The Cuban authorities announced Tuesday the opening of 118 cybercafés across the country, thanks to the fiber optic submarine cable laid from Venezuela.

Gonzalez ruled out that the restrictions on home connections are politically motivated, as people opposing the government contend. “We reiterate that there are no other limitations than the technological and financial ones,” he said.

The island does not allow private access to the network to its citizens. Only public institutions, foreign companies and some journalists, officials and artists can have a connection at home.

Opponents like blogger Yoani Sanchez accuse the government of Raul Castro of fearing the free flow of information on the net. Sanchez, who became known for her criticism of the Castro regime in her blog Generation Y, says she connects to the Internet at the exorbitant prices (around US $9.00 per hour) at Havana hotels.
Besides the opening of 118 cafes nationwide (12 in the capital), Cuban authorities announced Tuesday a substantial improvement in the infrastructure on the island.

This is due to the entry into operation of the fiber optic cable laid from Venezuela, one of the most anticipated and controversial projects in recent years.

The cable, a project in cooperation with Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, should improve the very poor internet access on the island, one of the worst in the world. Until recently, the connection was made only through satellite.

The laying of the submarine cable from Venezuela, which also extends from Cuba to Jamaica, originally was to be ready in July 2011. Raul Castro’s government, however, was silent on the project until January of this year.

“The submarine fiber optic cable is already providing services,” Gonzalez confirmed today.

The new offering of the cafes, in addition to about 200 facilities already available in hotels in the tourism sector, reduced the price to US $5.00 per hour of Internet access. This, however, remains high compared to international standards and exorbitant for Cubans who have an average US $20 per month salary.

The high priced Internet at the public facilities favors Cubans who receive remittances especially from the USA and others who have some way to earn hard currency instead of the devalued regular Cuban peso.
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Also see: Cuba Extends Expensive Internet Access


13 thoughts on “Cuba Keeps Private Internet on Hold

  • June 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm
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    Lets settle this once and for all.

    Graham posted in this thread:
    “As part of the foreign exchange class in Cuba I´m using it right now. Really freaking fast. Definitly fiber optic. But I can´t open files I typed before hand and things like FireFox mobile won´t work. So I´m limited to what I can do in 1 hour (i.e. typing emails while the clock ticks) Plus this keyboard really sucks, terrible.”

    So: all over the country access to fiber optics in this new system of internet cafés.
    In all of them restrictions of all kind: from ID checks to USB blockage.

    For the equivalent of 22 hours ( 100 dollars) of internet access in Cuba via the state system you can have one month of 12mbps down and 3mbps upload with a limit of 15Gb in peak time and free downloads in down time.
    The regime doesn’t allow these satellites.
    Allowing them would have solved any and all access problems.

  • June 7, 2013 at 12:19 pm
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    No dedicated lines needed. ADSL works with standard lines.
    Fiber optics: the point is that only selected people have access.

  • June 3, 2013 at 11:25 am
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    Only for dedicated lines. Those are new lines they go thorough a different network, not regular telephonic lines. For those, the best they offer is 256 kb/s (32 Kb/s equivalent) and at ridiculous price, and I think they are just increasing the number of lines instead of using the upper bands (that would explain why they only offer those slow speeds and why is so expensive).

    My point regarding the optical fiber is that not all of them are the same. A 45 mb/s fiber simply can’t handle the massive increment of data you would get by increasing the service subscribers by a decent amount (and we are talking of more than 10 times increment here).

    Just to put things in perspective, I don’t have a particularly fast connection at home and I get 28 mb/s on cable. That for a single person. Even if we are optimistic and they got a 2 Gb/s fiber cable for they backbone (that would mean that they deployed the technology first than US, which is extremely unlikely), that means they can handle a maximum of 1000 customers at 2 Mb/s. Or 4000 customers at 256 kb/s.

    In other words, thats not enough to provide broadband services nationwide at a significant scale.

  • June 2, 2013 at 2:38 am
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    Speeds of up to 2Mbps are available. The pricing is indeed “ridiculous” and is part of the control strategy of the regime.
    The rest of what I posted is very relevant as it shows that the fiber network exists and is only available to selected politically correct. It also confirms that Cuba has thousands of miles of fiber network that make up a very high speed access to the net.

  • May 31, 2013 at 4:11 pm
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    From your link:

    “ADSL Inmobiliarias

    Solución tecnológica que posibilita el acceso a Internet desde cualquier local del inmueble, a través de un enlace dedicado asimétrico, que permite la simultaneidad de una conversación telefónica y la navegación en Internet.

    Ofertas
    – Básica: Con velocidad de bajada (Red – Usuario) hasta 128 Kbps y de subida (Usuario – Red) hasta 64 Kbps.
    – Comercial: Con velocidad de bajada hasta 256 Kbps y de subida hasta 128 Kbps.”

    So, DSL has limited availability to real state companies and the speeds are limited to 256 kilobit per second (equivalent to a maximum of 32 Kb/s) an that at $430 CUC per month.

    They preferred solutions (and the one you mentioned in your reply) is the use of dedicated lines that DON’T make use of the regular phone lines. Those provide a maximum of 2 mb/s downstream and are available only to enterprises and the state sector at a ridiculous fees (up to 8470 CUC a month) and even so they are pathetic by modern standards (the slowest protocol for ADSL is G.992.1 and it goes up to 8Mb/s downstream).

    The rest of your quote is irrelevant, since it doesn’t mention the speeds they can get in their intranet backbone connections, but taking in account that its from 2004, they are most likely using the old 45 Mb/s networks, completely inadequate to handle high volume traffic. Even if they outsmarted the US and deployed the best available networks at that time, the best they can get is 2Gb/s.

    To put in in perspective, the undersea cable from Venezuela is supposed to handle a maximum of 640Gb/s (source here http://www.laht.com/article.asp?ArticleId=386513&CategoryId=10718), so whatever they deployed back then should be unable to handle that much traffic.

  • May 31, 2013 at 12:10 pm
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    I tell you again: Exchanges in Cuba have been updated.

    Etecsa even offers ADSL on their website:
    http://www.etecsa.cu/?page=internet_conectividad&sub=internet

    2Mbps is widely on offer though very expensive. It is also given to the elite and top academics.

    Even fiber optics are being installed for public use since 2004

    “Fiber optic cables in Cuba was installed first around government
    offices, military installations, key resort areas, but since 2004, in
    places such as: Villaclara, Cienfuegos, Ciego de Avila, Holguin,
    Santiago de Cuba, Bejucal, Wajay, Camaguey. In total, there are 9,
    850 Kms of fiber optic cable installed within Cuba.
    ETECSA has invested US$ 10,000,000 in fiber optic cable and
    related equipmen .to improve the company’s fixed-line
    infrastructure The investment and work has been done in
    conjunction with the PRC.”

    Republic of Cuba
    Telecommunications Infrastructure Assessment
    Dr. Manuel Cereijo, P.E.
    University of Miami
    December, 2010
    Powerpoint presentation.

    “It was not until late 1990s that ETECSA started introducing digital telephony, and fiber optics in Cuba’s telephone system. ETECSA has invested US$15 millions to improve the
    company’s fixed-line infrastructure (fiber optic) in the last 5 years.”

    Republic of Cuba
    Telecommunications Infrastructure Assessment
    December 2010
    DR. MANUEL CEREIJO, P.E.
    Report

    Some streets may have old lines, but exchanges and main lines have been updated.
    Read up.

  • May 31, 2013 at 8:22 am
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    The “Battalla de Ideas” was a political mistake designed by an ideologue in order to attune for a huge blunder he made himself. It was not only a costing diversion from the country resources, it will have lasting scars on important sectors, specially education in its stupid race to the lowest common denominator.

    But thats besides the point, I’m not responsible for any of that, if you want answers demand them from your government and ask them to take responsibility for their mistakes.

    Also, I don’t know the answer to your second question. As far as I know, everything I said comes from information in the public domain and some factoids come from the public discourse (for instance, they blame the lack of internet penetration to technical issues, not political reasons), yet they don’t seem particularly interested in discussing the issue, so is up to the Cubans to demand them to do so.

    And don’t get fazed by corruption scandals, virtually any person with power to grant Internet access is providing the service illegally to third parties and they all know so, so remove annoying people is as easy as track their activities for a couple of weeks to gather evidence.

  • May 31, 2013 at 8:06 am
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    My information is not up to date, but if things didn’t change significantly in the last couple of years, the existing speeds are not to the fiber optic standards.

    I already explained in my post that the availability of DSL-capable networks is very limited at the moment and it will remain the same for a while and why the existing telephony networks can’t handle can’t be used for that.

    The party officials, press and doctors have MODEM lines for private use, not DSL. As I explained before, thats the ONLY data communication technology for that can be used right now in any scale using the existing telephony network and in that case THERE WILL BE NO SPEED gained, since the bottleneck is going to be the 56kbps the modems can handle (for reference, thats a maximum uncompressed rate of 9 kilobytes per second)

    Even in that situation, you still need to build centrals like INFOMED with thousands of lines to handle any decent amount of connections, but it makes no sense to invest in obsolete technology so thats not going to happen either.

  • May 30, 2013 at 4:01 pm
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    If you would be informed about the situation in Cuba you would know that:
    – the backbone along the “carretera central” is in place since years and connects Siboney (Santiago province) with Havana and beyond
    – ADSL ready exchanges and networks have been installed in various Cuban cities and dial-up can be easily set up from all over Cuba
    – lots of party officials, doctors and approved academics have access to internet via the existing Cuban system showing it can be done

  • May 30, 2013 at 1:52 pm
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    The main reasons are political. Four years now we have been sending entire health units to Asia and South America, financing the media campaign for the Cuban Five, and putting a lot of money in the programs of the so called Batalla de Ideas (for whatever that means). And how much was spent in creating dozens of schools for art instructors that ended up being completely irrelevant. Why was not Internet one of such Batalla de Idea or Masificación de la Cultura programs. It is certainly most relevant regarding the circulation of ideas, knowledge and information. Also, why is it that through the national intranet services (local email services) you may access wikipedia yet not google or your gmail, least of all, sites such as Havana Times? Come on. Of course all new technology requires some substantial investment, in what way is that a justification for being one of the..how many…three, four, countries without private internet access as late as 2013 and still very little, very expensive and completely supervised pulbic access!!!!!????
    And why is your post the first time I hear at least some cyber talk about the technical facts of why internet was so difficult to have, why have not the Granma or the Mesa Redonda said anything about it, or why is the corruption scandal involving Etecsa officials associated with the delay in having the optic fiber cable become operational still unknown to most Cubans? Why are the very few Cubans with email so cautious about what they write about Cuba and its government in their messages?
    Who has 4 cuc to spend in an hour of slow internet navigation? Certainly not the professionals, but most likely, those who receive not just remittances but large steady remittances from abroad and the ones at the top of the inverted social pyramid: taxi drivers, retail sellers who sell horrible clothe and fake accessories illegally imported from Ecuador and Bolivia, jineteros and hustlers of all kind. I don’t see translators, editors, teachers, engineers, technicians googling anything at the cost of two cartons of 30 eggs each (90 pesos aprox 4 cuc) and for twice as much as they need to buy a kilogram of powder milk in the black market.

  • May 30, 2013 at 10:55 am
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    Not quite. Even if the cable increased the bandwidth and latency, they still need massive investments to make that bandwidth available to the end customers (government or private alike). That means a fiber optic backbone connecting all provinces and municipalities to the cable itself and the infrastructure to connect the users to the nearest nodes.

    And that last point is the real bottleneck, Most of Cuban telephony lines simply can’t be used to transfer data, since they are from before data transmission was available and all nodes trim the signals above 4Khz (the limit for human voice), formerly considered just noise unworthy of repeating and used later to send data in the same line.

    As result, only few commercial lines are DSL-capable and most users are limited to prehistoric modems transmitting in voice frequency(thats the reason why you can’t use the phone and connect to the modem at the same time) at a maximum of 56 kilobits per second. To correct that situation, they MUST update all repeaters and phone stations and that is a huge investment. And that, of course is nowhere close to creating optical fiber connection to individuals households, since is unlikely that private customers can cover the huge installation and service fees.

    The most likely scenario for private Internet use would be the creation of a wireless (cellular) networks. For starters, most cellular users pay in hard currency already, so the most logical step would be the creation of additional data plans available in hard currency to quickly recouple the investments and gradually provide cheaper alternatives to the rest of the population.

    In any case, it will be a slow process that most likely will take years, even with political support from the government.

  • May 30, 2013 at 1:07 am
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    For years the Castro regime claimed that lack of bandwidth was the reason why people in Cuba could not get access to the internet.

    That lie has now been exposed. With ample bandwidth available for over a year now people still get no access. The prohibitive cost (20 to 25% of a monthly salary) for one hour of “watched over” internet access shows the regime wants to ensure that the average Cuban has no access to internet.

    More on the subject:
    http://cubainternet.impela.net/

  • May 29, 2013 at 9:55 pm
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    The Cuban Vice Minister makes internet access sound like a scarce good that needs to be carefully rationed. Bandwidth is increasingly inexpensive to the point of becoming almost free in many countries. Allowing any person who wishes to pay a reasonable amount for a connection to do so would remove the financial constraints argument instantly. But then this is not the true reason why the Cuban authorities won’t allow private access to the internet is it?

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