Cuba’s Roller Coaster Technology

By S.E. Lewinski*

HAVANA TIMES – In early visits to Cuba, I found the most dated cell phone technology and would always leave my spare phone behind for someone. Those were the days of the internet in the park and that insane card with the need to input a zillion digits to connect.

Then as time progressed oh my God the populace was granted 2G data plans for the internet on cell phones. It was like the Red Sea had parted and the joy was immense for everyone. Then another miracle of technology came along. 3G was announced and everyone rushed off to upgrade their phones…hallelujah.

Life could not be better or could it. Yes, another gift of technology next with 4G connectivity and multiple requests please bring us new phones with the upgraded capability. Now while all this was progressing at least the famous bonus plan remained in place for foreigners to recharge and maintain the flow of cash into the national telecom company. Locals can’t utilize the bonus purchase only procured external to the island if you are not aware of the policy.

Time to provide a small secret of technology…are you ready? The cell phone towers come equipped with 2G, 3G, and 4G technology when installed. It’s not like someone is climbing the tower to replace any special electronics. But the miracle of moving from 2G 3G to 4G is bestowed… well you know where from.

Let’s talk next about the slow internet that has befallen the island over the last few weeks. For those that don’t know, the primary internet sea cable for the island comes from Venezuela. There are two other sea cables coming to the island from Florida and the other Puerto Rico. Small problem, those cables belong to USA Guantanamo and they don’t like to share their toys.

There is a rumor of a 2000 km sea cable coming from Martinique but the economics is an expense of 50 million USD. Not sure what the island populace would want to give up to pay for a new internet cable considering things are a struggle as it is.

Now let’s get back to that slow internet speed situation…guess what! Modern day sea cables can transmit 60 to 250 Terabits per second and that is blazing fast. So why is the internet so slow? Well the island does not watch Netflix so we know that’s not the problem every evening.

The cell phone tower hardware is still the same that hasn’t self destructed. Next secret, there is this capability to throttle down the speed from the source. Not saying who is doing this, but trust me, I had nothing to do with it. Nonetheless, the island populace is still paying the same price for services that are slower or non-existent. But in terms of economics the provider of the service is netting higher gross margins since they buy less bandwidth for the island, and in turn stream out slower speeds at the same price already established… brilliant business strategy.

Hey, seriously, let’s not complain since things could get worse on the island. A whale could accidently snag the undersea cable coming from Venezuela and the entire island would be back to the 1950s before black and white television. My sympathies sincerely go out to the island, but as long as I can pick up my foreign tourist SIM card at the airport, please don’t rock the boat!

Sometimes one has to live with what is provided and pay the price!

*Guest Writer and Global Citizen

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