01/24/13 - Washington Post - Cuba acknowledges 'tests' of its 1st undersea fiberoptic link for Internet traffic
Until now Cuba's Internet has been strictly via ponderous satellite links, and
out of reach for the great majority of islanders. ETECSA said the new cable has
been operational since August, initially carrying international voice calls, and
the company has been conducting data traffic tests on the cable since Jan. 10.
"When the testing process concludes, the submarine cable being put into
operation will not mean that possibilities for access will automatically
multiply," ETECSA said.
"It will be necessary to invest in internal telecommunications infrastructure,"
the company said, adding that even then the goal is "gradual growth of a service
that we offer mostly for free and with social aims in mind."
The $70 million ALBA-1 arrived on the island from Venezuela in February 2011 to
great hoopla, but officials soon stopped mentioning the cable amid rumors of
mismanagement and corruption involving the project.
Its status was unknown until this week, when U.S. Internet analysis firm Renesys
documented evidence of faster data traffic to Cuba and concluded that the cable
had been switched on.
Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, an advocate for wider Internet dissemination,
questioned whether the government would have said anything about the cable if
Renesys and foreign media had not reported about it.
"(Hashtag) Granma says now it's necessary to build infrastructure for the
(hashtag) FiberOpticCable to provide service!" she tweeted. "And what were they
doing the past two years?"
Cuba has the second-worst Internet connectivity rate in the world, according to
According to government statistics, about 16 percent of islanders have some
online access, usually through their school or workplace and often just to an
Intranet that also has email capability.
Just 2.9 percent of Cubans report having full access to the World Wide Web.
However outside observers say the true number is more like 5 to 10 percent
accounting for underreporting of dial-up minutes resold on the black market.
Peter Orsi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Peter_Orsi
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