Internet/Cuba: Time Marches On…

Fernando Ravsberg*

Internet access in Cuba is increasingly difficult. Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES — Days, weeks, months and years go by without achieving the promised computerization of Cuban society.

Gone is the debate as to whether the Internet will be social or individual; most Internet users are ready to accept any option as long as they have access.

I’m continuing to try to get some official at the Ministry of Communications to give me some answers regarding the Internet situation in Cuba.

It’s true that their subordinates always warn me not to try to get too close, but my optimism compels me to keep on insisting.

I managed to buttonhole one of the deputy ministers at the opening of the 15th Computer Technology Fair. I decided to approach him since he was fairly young and because a Cuban colleague assured me that “this guy knows what’s going on,” explaining to me that he wasn’t a simple bureaucrat.

I must admit he was more courteous and friendlier than other officials I’ve met in the past, but in the end his response was essentially the same: “I’m not going to make any statements…this isn’t the place…some other time…etc., etc., etc.

It was a shame he refused to talk because I wanted to ask him about an issue that concerns the vast majority of Cuban cybernauts: the difficulty connecting to the Internet and the extreme slowness of navigating on it – even worse than it was several years ago.

The national telephone company (Etecsa) alerted people in its latest statement that the existence of the new underwater cable “won’t mean an automatic increase possibilities for access,” but what it never said was that these possibilities would be reduced in the manner they’ve been.

Cuba experiences enormous technological backwardness with respect to the Internet. Photo: Raquel Perez

My intention in speaking with the deputy minister was to either confirm or rule out some of the rumors circulating on the island. People here are speculating about the reasons for the ever increasing difficulties in achieving even minimal internet access.

When I talk about the extreme slowness in navigating, what I mean is that downloading a video is completely impossible. Similarly, opening photos can take between 10 and 15 minutes, and opening 20 websites to review the news takes about three hours.

As always, there are those who blame all the difficulties on the US blockade, while of course the opposition assures us that it’s a government conspiracy to monopolize information.

Nevertheless there’s a third group that recognizes the problem as being a technical crisis.

The first two perspectives need no further explanations. We’ve been hearing them forever, with them centering on everything being good or everything being bad. In contrast, most of the experts I consulted believe the dire situation is due to technological difficulties.

One source told me that this time it has nothing to do with the fiber-optic cable from Venezuela, which apparently doesn’t work, but doesn’t harm. Currently there seems to be a greater problem with the internal networks and systems of the island, which apparently have begun to fail.

According to experts in the field, Cuban equipment and systems are so outdated that they aren’t even parts for them. This has been reducing the country’s capacity and forcing the regrouping of users in what’s still functioning, which would explain the declining speeds.

I’m beginning to understand the meaning of the statement made by Etecsa when it said they need more “internal investment in the telecommunications infrastructure.”

I’m continuing to try to get some official at the Ministry of Communications to give me some answers regarding the Internet situation in Cuba. It’s true that their subordinates always warn me not to try to get too close, but my optimism compels me to keep on insisting.

There were four paragraphs in which — while not lying — would require magic for them to reveal the truth.

Some experts agree that break downs are continuing to worsen, and they say the only solution is the complete modernization of the internal infrastructure, which would involve huge investment of money and time, and would mean inconvenience to users.

The truth is that despite the government’s investments in this sector, connectivity is worsening with each passing day. This snail’s pace is a fact, but its causes are impossible to confirm with the authorities at the Ministry of Communications.

Everything having to do with the Internet is maintained in the greatest secrecy. The cable [from Venezuela] remains in the “testing” phase, while there’s talk about new investments but with no details. On top of all that, they insist that people need to be patient while hoping for “gradual growth.”

Maybe we’re wasting time thinking. In the end, potential Cuban Internet users will remain exasperated in front of their computer screens while the Ministry continues responding like in that old song: “Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.”
(*) An authorized Havana Times translation of the original published by BBC Mundo.


11 thoughts on “Internet/Cuba: Time Marches On…

  • March 25, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    While Cuban gov consider internet access to the majority of the population a “crime against the state”, no real access to the internet will exist on Cuba to most part of
    the people. A fiber optic cable will be broken by a shark bite, the millions that ETECSA earn per month will not be enough to buy cheap Chinese equipments,….
    See >>>

  • March 25, 2013 at 4:24 am

    The answer is easy; Cuba needs control and filter information that most part of the
    Cubans receives, because needs have the population passive. Massive internet access breaks this principle in a country where only national tv channels and newspapers are allowed to the population. A fake reality is presented to visitors that can access to internet or see not Cuban Channels in hotels. With current prices charge in Cuba to internet access they can buy new equipments in less than 3 months in a factory locate outside the solar system. Until Cuba do not release access to satellite TV, internet to Cuban population will continue impossible because it is a question of an old state policy.

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