Google, Cuba Agree to Work Toward Improving Island's Connectivity

Internet laggard Cuba has sought to boost web access in recent years, introducing cybercafes, Wi-Fi hotspots and cellular Internet, but users still complain of the cost, slow link and intermittent coverage.

Google and ETECSA signed a memorandum of understanding to commence the discussion of a so-called”hierarchical arrangement” that could create a free and direct connection between their two networks.

This would allow faster access to content hosted on the tech giant’s servers, in a country where information is closely controlled, and reduce costs for Cuba that would no longer have to cover an intermediary.

“The execution of the online traffic exchange service a part of this plan of ETECSA for the growth and computerisation of the country,” Google and ETECSA stated in a joint news release, read out at a news conference in Havana.

The peering would be executed”when technical conditions permit it,” they said.

The agreement creates a joint working group of engineers to determine how to execute this.

US officials have in the past advocated for connecting Cuba via fibre-optic cable together with the United States just 90 miles (145 km) across the Florida Straits.

Cuba is currently connected to the Internet by means of a fibre-optic cable out of leftist ally Venezuela that went live in 2013, while much of its web infrastructure on the island is Chinese. Earlier this week, Cuba and Russia signed a memorandum of understanding on increasing collaboration in telecommunications.

Google has been working to expand its business in Cuba for decades but analysts say it might need to work hard to gain the government’s trust.

Still, the government has maintained a loophole created by Obama for US telecommunications companies to provide certain services to Cuba as they’d open up the country farther.

“The signing of the memorandum evidences that the attention of US companies in developing businesses with ETECSA remains,” that the Google, ETECSA news release .

Google setup a tiny pilot display center in Havana and signed up a deal in 2016 allowing Internet users faster access to its branded material.

Google’s efforts to enter the Cuban market come as it faces blowback from workers and human rights activists over efforts to enlarge in a different Communist-run nation, China, amid concerns it may comply with this country’s Internet censorship and surveillance policies.

Google has said it has not committed to some policies since it explores offering more services in China.

Whether due to the US embargo, absence of money or worries within the free flow of data, the Web was mostly available to the public in Cuba just at tourist hotels until 2013.

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