Google announced, on April 26, 2017, that it has become the first foreign business to launch internet servers in Cuba. With the Google Global Cache (GGC) service now accessible in the largest Caribbean island nation, Cubans and visitors can browse Google sites quicker and easier.
In another step towards diplomacy, Cuba has opened its doors to the outside world by making an agreement with Google. Users in Cuba will now have the GGC to assist in content storage from Google owned services. Cubans can take full advantage of popular services, such as Gmail and YouTube, that can be used on servers owned by ETECSA, the state’s telecommunications company.
Google Deal Allows for Better Internet Service in Cuba
Before the access to Google services, Cuba was known for having one of the worst internet connectivity abilities in the western part of the world. Cuba’s poor foundation for communications has been seen as a calculated move to control it’s, over 11 million, inhabitants from gaining abilities to access the internet and the outside world.
The country relied on linking long distance to the internet using a submarine cable to connect through Venezuela. Now that Google has made an agreement with Cuba, to be the first company to provide servers, Cubans are to have improved internet accessibility. Cached content will be able to be loaded much quicker using the new Google servers.
The internet company’s services will boost internet capabilities for some Cubans. Google reports that only Cuban citizens who already have internet access will see an improvement when using the services. With most of the population in Cuba without home internet access, citizens rely on the costly 240 Wi-Fi hot spots placed throughout the nation. The cost of $1.50 an hour is prohibitive for most Cubans, who generally earn approximately $25 a month.
Google Signed Internet Deal With Cuba
The deal between Alphabet, Google’s parent company, and ETECSA was signed in Havana in December 2016. During his visit to the country, in March 2016, President Barack Obama raised awareness for Cuba’s need to open its doors for better online access, in order to promote growth:
It also depends on the free and open exchange of ideas. If you can’t access information online, if you cannot be exposed to different points of view, you will not reach your full potential, and over time, the youth will lose hope.
Cuba has a history of keeping its inhabitants from easily gaining access to technology and the internet. Computers and DVD equipment were not allowed to be owned in Cuba until 2008. As of the signing of the Google agreement, only five percent of Cubans had internet connection in their home.
Obama’s visit to Cuba helped inspire the country’s leaders to work to improve internet access and slow connections. In the summer of 2016, 35 new Wi-Fi hot spots were added to increase the ease and affordability of internet access. The hotspots have become gathering spots for Cubans wishing to connect to the world.
To further increase the means for Cubans to connect to the internet, ETECSA has started a plan to add internet connections in more homes. The company is beginning a pilot program for installing connections to the internet in 2,000 residences. When the trial is completed, it is estimated that the cost for internet, in those homes, will be $15 for 30 hours of slow speed service.
Even with poor access, before Google arrived, usage of the internet had been growing rapidly in Cuba. The approximate number of internet users doubled between 2014 and 2016 to 150,000. With Google, as the first foreign host for the internet in Cuba, it is hopeful that the country will continue to grow in relations with its own people in allowing them to expand their connectivity abilities.
By Carol Ruth Weber
Edited by Cathy Milne
CNBC: Google just became the first foreign internet company to launch in Cuba
Miami Herald: Google Global Cache is now available in Cuba
BBC: Cuba signs deal for faster internet access to Google content
CNN: Cubans find Internet, like change, is slow to come
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Owen Lin’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License