Cuba gets broadband, but who gets to use it?

Cuba gets broadband, but who gets to use it?

The Renesys blog reports on signs that Cuba has finally activated its long awaited broadband cable:

In 2007, state-owned telecommunications companies from Cuba and Venezuela joined forces to build a submarine cable between the two Caribbean nations, linking Cuba directly to the global Internet and allowing it to end its reliance on satellite-based Internet services. At least that was the hope. The cable was named the "Alternativa Bolivariana para los Pueblos de nuestra América" or ALBA-1 for short.

Originally planned to be completed in 2009, the project hit delay after delay, until construction was finally completed in early 2011. However, despite the announcement of its completion, Cuba’s Internet has still limped along on high-latency satellite service via three different Internet service providers. That is, until last Monday when we noticed that Spanish telecom giant Telefonica began service to Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA), the state telecom of Cuba.

On the other hand, as Reuters notes, this doesn’t mean that most Cubans will actually have access to the improved service: 

Today, about 16 percent of Cubans are "online," although they generally only have access to email and the intranet through work, school, or, according to Cuban officials, via government-operated computer clubs. Additionally, only 2.9 percent report full internet access, but "analysts say it’s probably more like 5 or 10 percent due to under reporting of black-market resale of minutes."

Still, coming on the heels of last week’s new visa rules, something significant seems to be going on.