Created on: January 25, 2013
Cuba, the last country in the Western Hemisphere to utilize fiber-optic cable, has recently acknowledged testing an underwater cable that would boost its national Internet capabilities. According to Fox News, in a statement published in the January 24, 2013, edition of “Granma” (the Communist Party newspaper), the state telecom ETECSA finally broke its silence on the new cable.
ETECSA acknowledged the ALBA-1 underwater cable had been installed and tested, but noted that, “The submarine cable…will not mean that possibilities for access will automatically multiply.”
When the cable first arrived
The $70 million cable line was greeted with much fanfare by Cuban officials when it arrived from Venezuela nearly two years ago. Since then, however, there has been a virtual news blackout on the status of developments. While installation of the cable was initially scheduled for the summer of 2011, reports of mismanagement, even embezzlement, began circulating around the Cuban Ministry of Communications and ETECSA, according to NBC News.
Discovery of new cable’s use
In May 2012, the Venezuelan government announced the cable was operational, but it was not until January 2013 when the website Renesys.com, which monitors Internet developments around the world, reported that routing data “showed significantly faster traffic to the country and the emergence of the Spanish telecom Telefonica as a provider of routing service to state-run communications company ETECSA,” reports NBC News.
The sudden improvement in routing measurements between Cuba and four other cities gave Internet watchers an indication that the undersea cable was in use, although only at the testing stage.
It’s likely that the Cuban government would not have acknowledged the development, had pressure from the outside world not come via the reporting by Renesys, as well as other foreign media that picked up the story from them.
Computer use in Cuba
The reason the cable is so critical is that, until this cable was made functional, access to the Internet in Cuba has only occurred through satellite link-ups, which means users’ only option has been dial-up service. According to NBC News, the government of Cuba claims that 16 percent of Cubans are online, mostly through work and school, with just 2.9 percent having full access. Their “slow and creaky” access has put that country near the bottom (second to last) in world connectivity rates, stifling personal and business use of the Internet.
While the new cable will offer significantly improved Internet service, it is clear that the impact still requires more time to be felt. The Cuban government noted, “It will be necessary to invest in internal telecommunications infrastructure,” with a “gradual growth of a service that [will be offered] mostly for free and with social aims in mind.”
If anyone was expecting a quick home cable hook-up, think again.
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Cuba activates mysterious fiber optics cable to the global internet