Cuba connected to the Internet in 1996, but its connection is via dial-up and satellite and not undersea cable. That’s the problem. Venezuela installed an undersea cable — with Alcatel-Lucent — with great fanfare a year ago February. But why isn’t it working yet?
The cable links Venezuela to Cuba and Jamaica and reportedly will deliver 640Gbps — a huge improvement over the 209Mbp the island nations are getting now. But then nothing happened. And Cuba went dark about it.
Jorge Arreaza, Venezuela’s science and technology minister, says the cable “is absolutely operational,” referring to rumors that the cable is broken or that something political was gumming up the works.
“It will depend on the Cuban government what (Cuba) uses it for. Of course, that’s their sovereign matter. But we know the undersea cable is in full operation,” Arreaza said.
Cubans sure will see the difference when the pipe starts flowing. In January 2012, for example, Cuba international connectivity was only about 209Mbps upstream and 379 down that day. That’s almost nothing for a little island population numbeling little more than 11 million.
The university where I teach, to put that in context, counts 10,000 students and 1Gbps upstream.
Until the Venezuelan official’s address, the undersea cable in question was installed and slated to start operating last fall.
What happened? No one said. The issue, AP reporter Andrea Rodriguez, remains shrouded in mystery,” she said.
When Cubans or anyone else get access to the cable is anybody’s guess. Why the hold up? Rodriguez interviewed some who blame corruption. I have suggested that maybe it isn’t working well enough and is an embarrassment. Think about it. A fast undersea cable would be a strong link in a weak (or nonexistent) chain if Cuba’s domestic Internet infrastructure wasn’t upgrade to use it, too. So skilled networking technicians are necessary, and probably also the capital to upgrade existing network hardware.
Or maybe the Arab Spring frightened the government. Cuban President Raúl Castro opposed the Internet when Cuba connected for the first time in the mid 1990s. In October 1997 he stated that “glasnost, which undermined the USSR and other socialist countries, consisted of handing over the mass media, one by one, to the enemies of socialism.” Does he worry about an Internet-supported “Cuban Spring.”
Whatever the reason, the reported 70 million dollar investment Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez paid for is one long cable gathering barnacles.
Alcatel-Lucent SA laid down the cable, which rambles for 1,000 miles – -1600 kilometers — from Venezuela to Siboney, Cuba. It then runs the 150 miles over to Jamaica and, according to Arreaza, Venezuelan officials are discussing adding more cable and linking the island of Hispaniola, the island divided by the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Editor’s Note: Our Larry Press has studied the Internet in developing nations since the early 1990s and blogs on the Internet in Cuba at http://laredcubana.blogspot.com. Got a tip on this matter? Email Larry at Larry@aNewDomain.net