The Cuba-U.S. Information Highway Starts Now

Written by David Michaelis

When will U.S. tech companies arrive in Cuba? David Michaelis commentary.

aNewDomain — When will U.S. tech companies arrive on Cuban soil? Will there be a new reality of communication established? Though clues abound, it’s unclear how the the process will unfold after historic talks last week aimed at normalizing relations. A series of hearings will be held on Capitol Hill this week to address this matter, and it’s likely that Congress will claim that Obama has given away too much.

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Screenshot David Michaelis courtesy of CommArts

Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, is very interested in a fast entry of U.S. technological innovation into the Cuban market. Following his visit to Cuba this past summer he assessed that Cuba’s technological infrastructure is, not surprisingly, lagging far behind the rest of the world’s. In his post, Schmidt goes on to describe the current situation by explaining that:

If Cuba is trapped in the 1950’s, the Internet of Cuba is trapped in the 1990s. About 20-25% of Cubans have phone lines but mostly subsidized landlines, and the cell phone infrastructure is very thin. Approximately 3-4% of Cubans have access to the Internet in Internet cafes and in certain universities. The Internet is heavily censored and the infrastructure, which we toured, is made out of Chinese components.”

The Official Progress Update

Over the past half-century, the United States pursued a strategy of isolation with, hoping and assuming that Cuba would collapse without international support and, on its way to becoming a democracy, atone for the sins of its revolution. Obama acknowledges that this approach has not worked in ousting the Castro regime. So the question wasn’t whether he should alter the policy — he had to ask what changes were within his power to make and which were politically feasible.

Yahoo reports:

Cuba’s chief negotiator Josefina Vidal indicated that her country is ‘willing to receive US telecommunications companies’ to explore business opportunities.

But US Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson said Vidal was short on specifics and that experts from both countries would hold further talks.”

Republican Grip

Meanwhile, the Republicans want to return to same old same tactics in Cuba. The candidates, put frankly, are freaking out — Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and other Republican aspirants to the White House will have to travel to Iowa and explain why the United States shouldn’t be able to sell corn to Cuba, or highway of information, for that matter.


Screenshot David Michaelis courtesy of Infosurgents

Cuban Innovation

Cubans are starved for information in their own country — only 3.4 percent have Internet service at home, which arrives via a fiber-optic cable from Venezuela, according to the International Telecommunications Union. El Yuma reports:

We heard that Cuban youth are assembling informal mesh networks of wifi-routers, and thousands connect to these networks for file sharing and private messaging. USB sticks form a type of “sneakernet”, where people hand hard to get information to each other and keep everyone up to date without any real access to the Internet.

How long will it be before the young generations of Cuba and the U.S. are able to Skype or Google+ with each other?

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