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What Happened to the Cable? Cubans Discuss Internet Access

“The cable has a shelf life of 25 years. Time flies.” So begins the last post [es] on “Desde adentro de Cuba” [es] (“From inside Cuba”), a blog that compiles a chronology of the articles published throughout the island's state media and, specifically, on Cubadebate [es], about the fate of the $70 million investment that the Caribbean nation made in 2007 to improve access to the Internet and the “actual speed of broadcasting information” in Cuba.

“Cuba has been discussing cable for over five years,” says Adrián Jesús Pérez [es], who adds:

Habla el informático, pero también el doctor, el panadero y el cuentapropista con un familiar cumpliendo misión internacionalista, o simplemente emigrado a otro país. Uno siempre quiere saber de la familia y esta noticia hace soñar con más facilidades de comunicación.

The computer technician is talking, but so is the doctor, the baker and the freelancer with an acquaintance on an internationalist mission, or simply someone emigrating to another country. People always want to hear from their family and this news makes them dream about more ease of communication.

In May 2012, more than a year after the arrival of cable to Cuba, the Venezuelan Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Jorge Arreaza, announced [es] that the fiber optic cable would be operational and would also be improving Venezuela's connectivity.

Nevertheless, Cuba did not see improvements in connection speeds nor an increase in web access. In an article published in November 2012 by Luis Toledo Sande, the blogger recalls stereotypes that ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) have suffered in the country, and emphasizes the lack of information around Internet access:

Publicado en el blog La Joven Cuba a partir de caricaturas de Gerardo Hernández Nordelo

Published in blog La Joven Cuba (Young Cuba) after Gerardo Hernández Nordelo's cartoons. (Translation: Oh no!!! Was that the ship that brought the cable?)

Saltando como liebre, o asomando como topo, el fantasma de la satanización de la tecnología recuerda cierto caso, no remoto, en que —según testigos— un cuadro de alto nivel dijo que los investigadores de un centro analizado estaban tan mal ideológicamente, o eran tan sospechosos, que querían tener computadoras hasta en sus casas. No por gusto se despertaron suspicacias cuando, en días en que se hablaba de la instalación de un cable de fibra óptica para mejorar la informática en el país, algunas voces se apresuraron a advertir que no debíamos hacernos ilusiones, porque el cable no tendría capacidad suficiente para garantizar los servicios de internet en las magnitudes deseadas. Hoy parece que nadie se ilusiona, y no porque dichos servicios no sigan siendo necesarios, sino porque ni siquiera se habla del cable. En eso, al parecer, no hay secretismo, sino secreto, y las causas pueden ser las más atendibles, pero no lo sabemos. Hasta donde alcanza a conocer quien escribe estas notas, nadie ha dado la esperada información.

Jumping like a hare or hovering like a mole, the ghost of technology's demonization brings back a certain case, not remote, in which — according to witnesses — a high level board said that researchers in an analyzed center were in such a poor ideological state, or they were so suspicious, that they even wanted to have computers in their homes. No wonder suspicions were awakened when, in the days when there was talk of installing the fiber optic cable to improve the country's information technology, some voices were quick to warn others that we should not become hopeful, because the cable would not have the capacity needed to ensure Internet services of the desired magnitude. Today it seems as though no one is hopeful and not because said services have been rendered unnecessary, but because no one even speaks of the cable. There is no excessive secrecy in that, nor a secret even, and the reasons may be quite valid, but we do not know. No one has given the much awaited-for information to the best known writer of these notes.

On his part, Alejandro Ulloa asks, “why is there no explanation for the cable in Venezuela?” in a post [es] published recently where he criticizes the state media, the lack of information, and denounces corruption cases, among other problems currently facing Cuban society.

Meanwhile, Noelbis Mompié, talks about his experience [es] on a panel put together by Cuban magazine Temas (“Topics”) on “Social networks and movements on the Internet.”

Uno de los panelistas hacía referencia a que la Internet es una tecnología extraordinaria y debemos usarla en la medida que podamos pero para Cuba es equivalente a la importación, por un momento pensé, si todos los que están sumidos en la férrea batalla para reducir al mínimo las importaciones piensan así, ahora sí no tendremos Internet jamás. Será por eso que el Internet murió el mismo día en que el cable de fibra óptica llegó a las costas cubanas?

One of the panelists made a reference to the Internet being an extraordinary work of technology and that we should use it to the extent that we can, but for Cuba it is the equivalent of a foreign import; for a moment I thought, if all of us who are immersed in the harsh battle to minimize imports think this way, we really will never have the Internet. Could this be why the Internet died the same day that fiber optic cable reached Cuban shores?

Even Yasel Toledo, from his blog Mira Joven, emphasizes [es] the inevitable inclusion of the fiber optic cable in current talks.

El señor me hizo más preguntas, muchas en verdad. Hablamos hasta del cable de fibra óptica, de las deserciones de profesionales, de las diferencias entre las misiones a la guerra de Angola y las actuales.

The man asked me more questions, many to be honest. We even talked about fiber optic cables, professionals dropping out, the differences between the missions to the war in Angola and the current ones.

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