HAVANA TIMES, April 12 — In Cuba, access to the Internet is a privilege held by a small group that includes foreign residents on the island, PhDs in any field, senior political leaders, military officers, reporters, a few artists and writers, and people with sufficient money to pay for an illegal account.
Another group — such as medical doctors who have served missions abroad or academics — also have Internet access, but with more restrictions than those just mentioned. This group can only get on line from their jobs, and therefore they don’t have access from home.
As an example of the restrictions they suffer, the connections of this second group prevent them from opening web-mail accounts like say Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. In addition, certain websites are blocked nationwide or by the work center.
A friend of mine who has an Internet account — and therefore has much more of an opportunity to get online than me — from time to time lets me check my Gmail, for example. As one might imagine, I’m normally unable to access Internet sites, all I have time to do is just to check my inbox.
‘Tunnels’ and Increasing Surveillance
To get around the government-controlled servers, “tunnels” or proxies are used, which allow you to enter some of the forbidden sites through other webpages. However, these are now being detected and any deviation from the regulations is punishable by a suspension of access and is subjected to an investigation.
Surveillance activities relating to computer security have increased (this is understood as a measure to prevent access to any site that doesn’t suit the authorities).
So many filters placed on an already low bandwidth make our internet speeds much slower; it’s to the point of almost eliminating access to anything. Still, each day more and more sites are blocked, either nationally or by filters placed on servers at individual workplaces.
Unfortunately, I tried to apply my skill on those tunnels while using my friend’s account on my job. Apparently my tinkering was discovered and a three-month block was put on his Internet access as a reprimand – like one applied toward a misbehaving child.
He won’t have Internet access for a good while and I’ve been overcome by a tremendous sense of guilt.