Google, Cuba agree to work on improving the island’s connectivity

HAVANA (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc. Google has signed a deal with Cuban telecommunications monopoly ETECSA on Thursday to work to improve the internet traffic exchange between the two networks and the connections of the Communist-run island.

Google’s Head of Strategy and Operations in Cuba, Brett Perlmutter, and Vice-President of the Investments of Etecsa, Luis Adolfo Reyes, sign documents in Havana, Cuba March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

Internet laggard Cuba has attempted to increase web access in recent years, the introduction of internet cafes, Wi-Fi hotspots and mobile internet, but the users still complains about the expense, slow connection and poor coverage.

Google and ETECSA signed a letter of intent to start negotiations on a so-called “peering agreement” that would create a cost-free and direct connection between the two networks.

This would be a faster access to content that is hosted on the tech giant’s servers, in a country where information is strictly controlled, and the reducing of costs for the Cuba that no longer need to pay for a middleman.

“The implementation of this internet traffic exchange service is a part of the strategy of ETECSA for the development and automation of the land,” Google and ETECSA said in a joint press release, read out at a press conference in Havana.

The peering would be carried out “if the technical conditions allow it,” they said. That means that the establishment of a physical connection between Cuba ‘ s network and Google “point of presence”, the nearest in South Florida, Mexico, and Colombia.

The agreement is a joint working group of engineers to figure out how to implement this.

AMERICAN officials have in the past argued for the connection of Cuba through a fiber-optic cable with the United States, just 90 miles (145 km) on the other side of the Street Florida.

Cuba is currently connected to the internet via a fiber cable from leftist ally Venezuela that went live in 2013, while much of the web infrastructure on the island is Chinese. Earlier this week, Cuba and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of telecommunications.

Google is busy with expansion of its activities in Cuba for a year, though analysts say it will have to work hard to get the government to trust.

Cuban-AMERICAN relations have nosedived since Republican Donald Trump, the AMERICAN President promises to roll back a detente agreed by its Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama and tightening once more a decades-old U.S. trade embargo on the island.

Still, the administration has kept a loophole in the law created by Obama for the AMERICAN telecommunication companies to provide certain services to Cuba as they would the country.

“The signing of this memorandum, it appears that the importance of the U. S companies in the development of companies with ETECSA continues,” Google, ETECSA press release read.

Google set up a small pilot display center in Havana and signed a deal in 2016, the granting of internet users have faster access to the branded content.

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

Google and Etecsa logos to be displayed in a meeting room of a business centre in Havana, Cuba March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

Google’s attempts to the Cuban market because it is faced with the blowback of the workers and human rights activists about attempts to expand in other Communist-run state, China, the middle relates to the meet that country’s internet censorship and surveillance of the policy.

Google has said that they are not bound to the policies that will delve deeper into the offering of more services in China.

Or by the U.S. embargo, lack of money or concerns about the free flow of information, the internet became largely available to the public in Cuba is only at tourist hotels, to and with 2013.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh in Havana; Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta in Havana and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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