Google, Cuba Agree to Work Toward Improving Island’s Connectivity

Google, Cuba Agree to Work Toward Improving Island's Connectivity

Internet laggard Cuba has sought to boost web access in recent years, introducing cybercafes, Wi-Fi hotspots and cellular Internet, but users still complain about their price tag, slow link and spotty coverage.

Google and ETECSA signed a memorandum of understanding to commence the negotiation of a so-called”hierarchical arrangement” that could create a free and direct link between their two networks.

This would allow quicker access to content hosted on the tech giant’s servers, in a state where information is tightly controlled, and decrease costs for Cuba that would no more need to pay for an intermediary.

“The execution of the Internet traffic exchange service is part of the strategy of ETECSA for its growth and computerisation of the nation,” Google and ETECSA said in a joint news release, read at a news conference in Havana.

The peering would be implemented”when technical requirements permit it,” they stated. That means the institution of a physical connection between Cuba’s network along with also a Google”point of presence”, the closest ones residing in South Florida, Mexico and Colombia.

The agreement creates a joint working group of engineers to determine how to execute this.

US officials have in the past advocated for linking Cuba via fibre-optic cable with the United States just 90 miles (145 km) throughout the Florida Straits.

Cuba is currently on the Internet by means of a fibre-optic cable from leftist ally Venezuela that went live in 2013, although much of its internet infrastructure around the island is now Chinese. Earlier this week, both Cuba and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding on increasing cooperation in telecommunications.

Google has been working to expand its business in Cuba for years although analysts say it will have to work hard to gain the government’s trust.

Cuban-US relations have nosedived since Republican Donald Trump became US President promising to roll back a detente consented by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama and tightening once a decades-old US trade embargo on the island.

Nonetheless, the government has maintained a loophole created by Obama for US telecommunications companies to provide specific services to Cuba since they’d open up the nation further.

“The signing of the memorandum evidences that the attention of US firms in developing businesses with ETECSA remains,” that the Google, ETECSA news release .

Google set up a tiny pilot display center in Havana and signed a deal in 2016 allowing Internet users faster access to its branded material.

Google’s attempts to enter the Cuban market come as it faces blowback from employees and human rights activists over attempts to expand in a different Communist-run state, China, amid worries it could comply with that country’s Internet censorship and surveillance policies.

Google has said it has not committed to some policies since it investigates offering more services in China.

Whether because of the US embargo, absence of money or worries over the free flow of information, the Web was largely available to the general public in Cuba just at tourist hotels until 2013.