Cuba and Super WiFi

Fernando Ravsberg*

Children in a computer class at a rural school in Pinar del Rio Province. (Photo: Raquel Perez)

HAVANA TIMES — The war on technological development is already lost. This was learned by the English workers when they tried to stop the industrial revolution by destroying the machinery they believed was taking their jobs.

Things are accelerating even faster in cyberspace, and whoever doesn’t keep up will be swallowed by a black hole or conquered by their enemies. In this epoch, trying to remain isolated in a bubble is as utopian as destroying those industrial-age machines.

Cuba’s authorities have had all the time in the world to give cyberspace a place on the island.

They have also had the necessary human, material and international support, yet — inexplicably — the country continues to lag behind.

For more than a year the underwater fiber-optic cable that was promised to increase Cuba’s connectivity by 3,000 times should have been in operation. However that still hasn’t happened, and the leadership of the Ministry of Communications refuses to explain why.

Rumors are circulating from Miami assuring me that the cable is operating and that it’s only being used by the Ministry of the Interior, while people in Cuba tell me that the trial is about to begin of those who were most responsible for this multi-million-dollar scam.

The impact of this fleecing should be measured not only because of the economic losses, but also for its social and political consequences. The lack of connectivity leaves most Cubans on the fringe of the world and cedes the power of information to the extremes.

On the one pole there’s a group of pro-government webpages that repeat everything that comes “from above.” They do this even when — without the least shred of evidence — they’re asked to accuse major Cuban intellectuals of being spies for the CIA.

The underwater cable was supposed to go on line last year to enable offering Internet to Cubans at cybercafes. Photo: Raquel Perez

In this way they ensure their connection, because the bandwidth for Internet access by Cuban journalists is regulated directly by the “protectors of the faith,” so only colleagues who they consider “ideologically pure” are rewarded with high-speed ADSL connections.

Others are relegated to navigating at 56 kbps – a speed so slow that when you go to Google and search “news,” you can go to make some coffee and come back 15 minutes later to find that still nothing has opened. Photos take even longer and videos are impossible.

At the other extreme are the cyber-dissidents who enjoy high-speed access thanks to the generous but not disinterested assistance of several embassies – first among them being the US Interests Section, which provides internet hours as if it were a cybercafé.

Obama believes in the network and is placing his bets on Cubans’ access to the Internet being the way to end the revolution. His subordinates are creating underground networks and video games to achieve what couldn’t be accomplished by the military invasion from Miami or 50 years of embargo.

Meanwhile, technology continues forward. A “super WiFi” and is being tested in several US regions to eliminate any inaccessible holes of Internet coverage. Networks are being deployed that can cover more than a hundred miles at the amazing speed of 22 Mbps.

As soon as the notion of a super-WiFi became public, the propaganda machines started cranking up. While the anti-Castro elements are asking to use it to break the isolation of the Cuban people, the communists are describing it as a weapon for conducting information warfare against Cuba.

It’s a sure thing that there will be those on the island who will seek technical measures to block access to the “imperial” super Wi-Fi, but I’m confident that sensible people will understand that these resources should themselves be used to create connections to the network.

The battle against technology has no future because eventually development will continue knocking down all walls. Cuba’s government can’t prevent it; it can only decide whether Cubans access the world through it or through its enemies.
(*) A Havana Times  translation published with the authorization of BBC Mundo.


20 thoughts on “Cuba and Super WiFi

  • September 22, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    ‘Moses’ writes about the high costs Cubans must pay to LEAVE Cuba – costs for an exit visa, for a passport and for a medical exam to receive an exit visa, finding this a justification for supporting the US blockade?

    This is a justification for a US blockade that brings hardship to 11 million Cubans?

    From Americans’ perspective, obviously, who are encouraging emigration of Cuba’s youth in order to bring down Cuba’s government.

    Having erected his ‘straw dog’ that costs for emigrating from Cuba somehow represent an outrage, ‘Moses’ claims we are either “stupid” or “intellectually dishonest” to “justify these migration policy abuses by the Cuban regime on the Cuban people by blaming the embargo.”

    Who wrote that? Shape up ‘Moses’, please, in your desire to make propaganda points, you are even more out to lunch than usual. Getting desperate, perhaps?

  • September 22, 2012 at 11:15 am

    ‘Susan L’ repeats another familiar refrain emanating from US propagandists. The goal is still the same – to shift responsibility for Cuba’s economic problems onto its government and off of the US blockade that every country in the world – save the US and Israel – condemns.

    It goes like this – the situation is hopeless, the blockade “could last another 50 years. So, what can Cubans do?” Cubans should “just take the blockade as a given and go from there.” “Nobody has been able “to do anything about. It’s just not in our power.”

    It’s advice from an American hoping to demoralize Cuba’s citizens, encouraging them to give up, trying to accomplish what the US blockade has been unsuccessful in accomplishing – overthrowing Cuba’s government.

    Unknowingly, I’m sure, ‘Susan’ takes on the role of two notorious figures in history – Tokyo Rose, whose broadcasts were intended to disrupt the morale of Allied forces listening to them and Lord Haw-Haw, broadcasting from the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda that attempted to discourage and demoralize Allied troops and the British population and to suppress the effectiveness of the Allied war effort through propaganda, and to motivate the Allies to agree to peace terms leaving the Nazi regime intact and in power. [Wikipedia]

    Both were trying to accomplish through propaganda what the Japanese and Germans could not achieve otherwise. There certainly does seem to be a similarity to what ‘Susan L’ is attempting here.

    ‘Susan L’ argues that Cubans should do what they can do – change their government – and forget about what they can’t change – getting the US to lift the blockade. To continue with my previous metaphor, if your car won’t run because there is no gas and you cannot obtain any gas, you should do what you can – clean the spark plugs, for instance. The car still won’t run, however.

    The flaw in ‘Susan L’s argument is the same flaw in Tokyo Rose’s and Lord Haw Haw’s propaganda. She writes, “neither you or many other people who oppose it, myself included, have been unable to do anything about. It’s just not in our power.”

    Aside from ‘Susan L’, who throws up her hands and gives in rather too quickly I think, the certainty the blockade will continue for much longer is not obvious for the rest of us. There are many factors in train that indicates changes are coming – changing demographics in the US, the state of the US economy, the new reality in every country in the world as to what the US actually represents.

    It does sound like the Cubans should stay tuned and not drop out, especially on the advice of an enemy propagandist.

    ‘Susan L’, writing that the “number one aspiration of [Cuba’s] youth is to leave” without noting the role the US is playing is a distortion, to say the least. A writer for the Christian Science Monitor puts into perspective the role the US plays in encouraging them:

    “Aren’t there millions of people the world over who also have good reasons – perhaps even better ones – to flee their country for ours? Are Cubans the most miserable people on the planet, or is there added – and significant – reason that contributes to so many making the decision to defect (or emigrate)? Cuba policy wonks know the answer to this question, and it causes us to gnash our teeth and pound the table for emphasis – to make sure the listener is actually listening.”

    “Cubans may arrive in the United States by any means (yes, including illegally), and not only walk free in our country, but they will receive government adjustment assistance (intended for refugees, though they don’t have to actually prove they are refugees), be eligible to work, and have the right to a green card after just one year. What other illegal immigrant group gets this sort of treatment in the United States of America? Certainly not Haitians or Afghans. Not Iranians, North Koreans nor any other group that could make a case for it.”

    And the record continues playing, unbroken.

  • September 22, 2012 at 9:54 am

    If you can justify why Cubans must pay 150 cuc for their ¨tarjeta blanca¨ with respect to the US embargo, or why Cubans must pay 55 cuc for a Cuban passport, or 420 cuc for a medical exam to receive their exit visa, I will be first in line to protest against the embargo. Keep in mind that the average monthly salary in Cuba is less than 14cuc- Either you really are stupid or you are being intellectually dishonest if you are trying to justify these migration policy abuses by the Cuban regime on the Cuban people by blaming the embargo. These are simply ¨moneygrabs¨ intented to punish those Cubans who have the audacity to want to leave Cuba.

  • September 22, 2012 at 7:35 am

    Lawrence, you continue with the same broken record. The blockade is the product of many corrupt interests that neither you or many other people who oppose it, myself included, have been unable to do anything about. It’s just not in our power. It could last another 50 years. So, what can Cubans do? That’s what the interesting question is. According to you the only thing to do is continue the same failed siege mentality policies that have led to an aging country (or revolutinary paradise if you like) where the number one aspiration of its youth is to leave. Those policies can be changed by Cubans, with or without US permission. Without stopping to speak against it, just take the blockade as a given and go from there. That would allow you to get beyond the scratch on your record.

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