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Cuba now has the promise of better internet connection with the arrival of a massive submarine fiber optic cable on its Cuba. Though most Cubans will still have only limited access to the Web.
The French ship “Ile de Batz” arrived at Siboney beach, Santiago de Cuba province, 870 km (540 miles) southeast of Havana, Deputy Minister of Information and Communications Ramon Linares told a computing conference.
Valued at US$70 million and considered one of the most ambitious projects between socialist oil-rich Venezuela and cash-strapped Cuba, the cable laying began on January 22.
The cable was run 1 600 kilometers (994 miles) from Camuri, in northern Venezuela, before reaching its destination.
When the submarine cable is operational in July, it is expected to allow a connection of up to 640 gigabytes a second. That means download speeds 3 000 faster than what Cuba has now, thanks to a cable being hailed as a boon for telephone and Internet service in the Caribbean nation.
Since the dawn of the internet, Havana has claimed US sanctions meant that Cuba only could get internet by satellite
But another deputy minister of information, Jorge Luis Perdomo, said Monday that Cubans would not have immediate access to the services provided by the cable because the communist island first needs heavy investment in infrastructure and technology.
Such claims have fueled outrage by critics who claim that access is being restricted for reasons of political control just as the Caribbean nation seems to be at the dawn of a new internet age.
Perdomo denied there was any political element to access. He added that social media would continue to be used as now only in academic settings and certain professional situations such as by journalists and doctors.
“There is no political obstacle,” he insisted.
The cable is not a “magic wand,” Perdomo continued, arguing that the government needs to invest in infrastructure before opening unlimited internet access to all Cubans at some unspecified point in the future.
And with the development coming just as Egypt struggles with the revolutionary impact of social media on political stability, the Americas’ only one-party Communist regime could find itself in suddenly stormier seas.
Indeed in recent years, Cuba has become a battleground for blogging dissidents and counter-blogging pro-government detractors.
Cubans wait to use computers at an internet cafe in Havana
Just in the past few days, a 50-minute video was posted in which a purported Interior Ministry official is seen charging the United States with fomenting internet- and social media-based based dissent.
The government says that 1.6-million Cubans have access to the internet out of 11.2-million. While they can surf at hotels with cards paid for in hard currency, it is not an option for many at US$7 an hour. Cubans make an average US$20 a month.
“It would be logical for this cable to give high speed service and make service cheaper for all Cubans, because we cannot afford it,” explained construction worker Yenier Garcia, 36, standing in line at a government internet use site to send an email to a friend in Sweden.