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

Internet laggard Cuba has sought to increase web access in the last several years, including cybercafes, Wi-Fi hotspots and mobile Internet, but users still complain of the price tag, slow link and intermittent coverage.

Google and ETECSA signed a memorandum of understanding to begin the discussion of a so-called”hierarchical arrangement” that would create a free and direct link between both 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 prices for Cuba which would no longer have to cover an intermediary.

“The execution of this online traffic exchange service is part of the plan of ETECSA for the growth and computerisation of the nation,” Google and ETECSA stated in a joint news release, read at a news conference in Havana.

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

The agreement makes a joint working group of engineers to determine how to implement this.

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

Cuba is now on the Internet via a fibre-optic cable from leftist ally Venezuela that went live in 2013, while a lot of its internet infrastructure around the island is now Chinese. Earlier this week, Cuba and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding on increasing collaboration in telecommunications.

Google has been working to expand its business in Cuba for decades but analysts say it might have to work hard to obtain the government’s hope.

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

Nonetheless, the administration has maintained a loophole created by Obama for US telecommunications companies to provide certain services to Cuba as they would open up the country farther.

“The signing of the memorandum evidences the attention of US companies in developing companies with ETECSA stays,” the Google, ETECSA news release read.

Google setup a small pilot display center in Havana and signed a deal in 2016 allowing Internet users quicker access to its branded content.

Former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt met Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel twice last year, in June in Havana and at Google’s New York office in September.

Google’s attempts to enter the Cuban market come as it faces blowback from workers and human rights activists over attempts to enlarge in a different Communist-run nation, China, amid worries it may 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 due to the US embargo, lack of cash or worries over the free flow of data, the Web was largely accessible to the public in Cuba only at tourist hotels until 2013.

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