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Digital Communications and the Internet in Cuba Documents

Google Wants to Improve Internet Access in Cuba, but Talks Are in 'Early Stage'

By Miguel Helft (Forbes, March 21, 2016)

Digital Communications Image

In this article, Helft sheds light on the talks between Cuban officials and representatives from Google to bring better telecom infrastructure and internet connectivity to the island. While the talks took place over a serious of semi-official meetings, the author notes that President Obama's March 2016 visit to the island confirmed Google's ventures on the island and hinted that WiFi and broadband access are key parts of Google's plan, pending, of course, official Cuban engagement with the company. The article concludes with a basic discussion of el paquete as the ingenious alternative to extensive internet connectivity on the island.

Link to full text from Forbes

The Internet Comes to Cuba...Slowly

By Gesell Tobias (Voice of America, February 12, 2016)

Cuban internet access, although still limited, has been made more available on the island in the past two years. Tobias's article discusses how everyday Cubans connect to the Internet through Wi-Fi hotspots in parks and other public spaces. The article also touches on internet and social media restrictions on the island, concluding that because the Internet is still a precious commodity Cubans have preserved human contact in communication.

Link to Full Text via Voice of America

Cuba's Internet Isolation Is Beginning to Lift

By Alana Tummino (CNN, February 10, 2016)

In this article, Tummino covers the basics of internet access in Cuba following the announcement that broadband service would be launched on the island. Tummino points out that increased internet connectivity is related to the influx of foreign tourists, while Cubans themselves have found access to be expensive and somewhat unreliable. The article emphasizes Cuba's national development strategy-the goal of which is to connect a majority of Cubans to broadband internet by 2020-yet cautions that increased internet accessibility should not just benefit business travelers and authorized government users.

Link to full text via CNN

'Cuban Twitter' Might Hold Key to Cuba's Reluctance in Telecom Talks

(Cuba Journal, February 5, 2016)

This article presents a cautionary tale about increasing telecommunications collaboration between the United States and Cuba. ZunZuneo, or the "Cuban Twitter," was covertly created by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in 2010 to undermine the Cuban government by creating a space for young people to connect and be introduced to political ideas. The project has since been denounced as misguided, yet it highlights one of the reasons why the Castro government has been cautious and slow-moving in reaching agreements with the United States in the telecommunications field.

Link to full text via Cuba Journal

U.S. and Cuba Still at Impasse Over Internet Access

(Cuba Journal, January 26, 2016)

Summarizing a recent delegation to Cuba to discuss how American internet and telecom companies to engage can on the island, this article emphasizes the limitations of increasing internet connectivity on the island. Despite U.S. and Cuban enthusiasm for better telecommunications infrastructure, Cuban officials are still wary of expanding service with the help of U.S. companies without an end to the embargo.

Link to full text via Cuba Journal

El paquete semanal: How Offline Piracy Flourishes in Cuba

By Ernesto Oroza (TorrentFreak, December 26, 2015)

This article offers a comprehensive look at el paquete, including the clandestine networks required to prepare el paquete every week. While el paquete allows Cubans of all ages to access pirated web content from all over the world (and especially the United States), the Cuban government finds the media service to be disruptive and impossible to control. In response, the government has created its own state-approved media service, el maletín, which has largely failed. The article concludes with a discuss of "SNet," a clandestine network of telephone cables and computers that connect some Cuban neighborhoods to the Internet.

Link to full text via Torrentfreak

Cuban Internet Delivered Weekly by Hand

By Emilio San Pedro (BBC News, August 10, 2015)

This article explores the basics of el paquete semanal, the weekly media distribution service that connects Cubans to music, movies, television shows, magazines, mobile phone applications, and classified ads. The article is especially enthusiastic about the media and business opportunities that el paquete brings to Cubans, as many have been able to find jobs as content curators or creators of media. While el paquete exists outside of the Cuban legal framework (and international copyright laws), the article cautions that the lessening of internet restrictions could mean the end of el paquete.

Link to full text from BBC News

The Strange and Challenging World of Cuban Tech Start-Ups

By Mimi Whitefield (Miami Herald, July 11, 2015)

Despite limited Internet access for them and their clients, young entrepreneurs have created tech start-up companies to rate private restaurants, collect domestic market data, and develop apps. However, some speculate that Cubans' window of tech opportunities may be fleeting, as new U.S. rules allow American telecom and Internet companies to sell goods and services and joint venture with Cuban partners.

Link to full text via Miami Herald

In Cuba, An Underground Network Armed with USB Drives Does the Work of Google and YouTube

By Sarah Kessler (Fast Company, July 7, 2015)

The author describes her experience buying El Paquete Semanal ("the packet of the week") in Havana and explains how Cubans access content and stay connected in a country where the government owns almost all media. El paquete is not a static library of files, but a weekly updated resource that includes some of the same living resources that you might find on the Internet.

Link to full text via Fast Company

Cuba Slowly Expands Internet Access

By Jack Karsten and Darrell M. West (Brookings Institution, July 2, 2015)

The citizens of Cuba have historically had few outlets to information on the outside world, but that may be gradually changing. Cuba's state telecom company ETECSA recently announced that it would be opening 35 new Wi-Fi hotspots around the island. In addition, the company will cut the price of connecting from $4 per hour to $2 per hour. Given infrastructure limitations, the new hotspots will only accommodate 50-100 users at a time with download speeds of 1 megabit per second (mbps). Low Internet speeds in Cuba partly stem from regulations that forbid the importation of most IT equipment, but warming relations with the United States could relax these restrictions. Bringing Internet to Cuba could play a large role in reversing fifty years of economic and diplomatic isolation.

Link to full text via Brookings Institution

Cuba, an Internet Laggard, Opens Wi-Fi Hotspots Across Country

By Jaime Hamre (Reuters, July 2, 2015)

In this article, Hamre reports that Cuba has opened 35 Wi-Fi access points nationwide, as well as cut prices for usage by over half, offering unprecedented online access in a country that until now has restricted use of the Internet to an elite few (Only 3.4 percent of Cuban homes have Internet access). Many link the changes to improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

Link to full text via Reuters

Cuba Offers Its Citizens Better Access to Internet

By Victoria Burnett (New York Times, June 18, 2015)

Cuba, one of the Western Hemisphere's least-wired countries, is poised to expand access to the Internet by introducing about three dozen Wi-Fi hot spots around the island and reducing the steep fees that Cubans pay to spend time online. The move, announced in Juventud Rebelde, an official newspaper aimed at the island's youth, came amid new pressures to increase Internet access as the nation edges toward normalizing diplomatic relations with the United States.

Link to full text via the New York Times

U.S. Telecoms Firm IDT Establishes Direct Connection with Cuba

(Reuters, March 11, 2015)

Reuters reports that, for the first time since the embargo, "direct telephone connections between the United States and Cuba have been established." The U.S.-based IDT Corp reached an agreement with Cuba's Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA) to provide direct international long distance telephony and, consequently, greater ease and quality of communications between the people of both nations.

Link to full text via Reuters

No Internet in Cuba? For Some, Offline Link to World Arrives Weekly

By Tim Johnson (McClatchy DC, January 9, 2015)

The vast majority of Cubans have no access to the Internet or cable television, but that doesn't mean they're out of touch with the wider world. Many stay connected through an offline system that operates in the legal shadows. It's called the "weekly packet," and it's an alternative to broadband Internet that provides tens of thousands of Cubans, and perhaps many more, with foreign movies, TV shows, digital copies of magazines, websites and even local advertising.

Link to full text via McClatchy DC

The Digitization of Society, a Priority for Cuba

By Granma Editorial (Granma International, December 15, 2014)

The editorial summarizes and defends Cuba's endeavors to advance its telecommunications infrastructure and automatize operations in strategic sectors, highlighting the 154 Public Navigation Centers that have been opened on the island so that Cuba will be able to offer broadband access to its inhabitants. The authors state that such technology is necessary for developing a "prosperous, sustainable society," and also for combating subversive action against the country, particularly by the U.S.

Link to full text via Granma International

Tecnología de la Información y las Comunicaciones: Indicadores seleccionados

By the Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas (ONE) (Government of Cuba, August 2014)

The "Information Technology and Communications" (TIC) report shows select measures gathered by Cuba's National Office of Statistics and Information, including information about infrastructure and international telephone, postal, and telegraph services. The "computerization of society" in Cuba is defined as the process of orderly and massive use of ICT to meet the needs of information and knowledge of all people and areas of society.

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Bridging Cuba's Communication Divide: How U.S. Policy Can Help

By Ted Piccone, Christopher Sabatini, and Carlos Saladrigas (Brookings Institution, July 2010)

This paper from the Brookings Institution calls for the United States Government to broadly lift all bans that are currently hindering economic growth in Cuba. They argue that strengthening the Cuban economy will promote the establishment of greater information technology infrastructure and perhaps begin to open the country to greater political freedoms.

Link to full text via the Brookings Institution

The Internet in Cuba

(La Red Cuba Blog)

La Red Cuba blog is run by Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University, Dominguez Hills, whose research has included reports and articles on the state of Cuban networking. He started his blog in 2011 as an effort to encourage the modernization of and access to the Internet in Cuba.

Link to full text via La Red Cuba