Google Fiber in Cuba? Here’s How It Might Look

Google Cuba project Sunrise in Havana Foto tomada desde un edificio de Nuevo Vedado, se ve la silueta de la Plaza de la revolución, la cúpula del Capitolio Nacional y otros importantes edificios de la Habana.
Written by Larry Press

The White House reportedly wants Google to get going on its deal with Cuba. What deal? It’s conjecture, says Larry Press, but here’s what a Google Fiber deal might look like for the upcoming ETESCA pilot in Old Havana.

aNewDomain — The Obama administration is pushing Google and other US firms to “secure agreements to operate in Cuba” before Donald Trump takes office in January, according to the The Wall Street Journal and El Nuevo Herald.

google in cuba google fiber havana google etescaIt isn’t clear what the Google deal in Cuba is, but here is what would be good for both Google and Cuba: A joint project between Google and ETESCA, Cuba’s government-owned telecom provider, to bring high speed access to Old Havana.

Imagine if Google, which has considerable fiber installation experience with Google Fiber in the US and its Project Link in Africa, embarked on such a pilot experiment with ETESCA.

This would be the first step in leapfrogging Havana’s connectivity infrastructure.

According to a source close to ETESCA, a fiber pilot is set to begin in Old Havana as early as this week.

Google could easily piggyback on this, installing fiber as it did in Accra and Kampala in Africa, but leave it up to ETECSA to connect premises using a mix of fiber, coaxial cable and wireless technology.

That would transform the old city into one of the most connected cities in the world, a model of next generation technology.

A win-win-win for Google, Cuba and President Obama’s legacy … 

A split of duties would have Google supplying expertise and capital. ETECSA could supply labor, and deal with the Cuban and Havana bureaucracies as necessary.

It’s easy to see what Google would get out of the arrangement.

Donald Trump cuba tweet google fiber in CubaFor one thing, Google would get terrific publicity.

Even better, it would get a a seat at the table as Cuba launches infrastructure discussions on setting up data centers, video production facilities and setting up ad networks. (Take that, Facebook.)

Havana could also serve as a model and reference-sell for cooperation between Google and other cities. (Take that Comcast and AT&T).

There might even be some revenue sharing, with ETECSA paying Google as the ISPs do in Africa.

Most of all, it would be a win for the US administration and President Obama’s legacy.

What would a Google Fiber deal in Havana look like? 

Google Fiber Cuba ETESCAWe already know, for one thing, that Havana is getting fiber, and soon. ETESCA in July announced Cuba would be running a fiber trial in parts of Old Havana. ETESCA never specified whether this project would entail fiber to the premises or neighborhood.

We also know that Google Fiber has changed a lot since it started as a demonstration project in Kansas City.

Two months ago, Google Fiber execs announced the company was going to “pause operations and offices” except in cities where it had been conducting exploratory discussions. Havana, reportedly, is one of those cities.

Meanwhile, Google’s Project Link has installed wholesale fiber backbones in two African capitals, which provides a great model of how a Google-ETESCA fiber project could work in Cuba. As I’ve speculated, Google could duplicate that effort to do the same in Havana, only in conjunction with ETESCA.


For aNewDomain, I’m Larry Press.

Cover image: Sunrise in Havana: by Jvlio, Self-published work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link; inside images:, All Rights Reserved; Pre-Text0s-ES, All Rights Reserved; Cuban map via Larry Press for aNewDomain, All Rights Reserved.

An earlier version of this story ran on our Larry Press’ LaredCubana blog last week. Read it here. – Ed.