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Google, Cuba agree to work to improve island connectivity

HAVANA (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc. Google has signed a deal with Cuban telecommunications monopoly ETECSA on Thursday to negotiate an agreement for 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.

The partnership would create a cost-free and direct connection between the Google and Cuban networks in a process known as “peering” in the industry. It might be faster to access content that is hosted on the tech giant’s servers.

“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, without specifying what they want to be. Neither party took any questions.

The memorandum of understanding creates a group of engineers focused on figuring out how the peering.

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’s attempts to see the Cuban market as it faces blowback over 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.

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 2013 when a fiber-optic cable to Venezuela and went to live.

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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