Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cable or Carrot? / Yoani Sánchez

Cable or Carrot? / Yoani Sánchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sánchez

The mystery has been solved, the enigma of the fiber optic cable between
Cuba and Venezuela has been cleared up because of an indiscretion. The
Venezuelan Minister of Science and Technology affirmed a few days ago
that it "is absolutely operational," and what it is used for will
depends on the government of Raul Castro. Just when we thought that the
tendon lying in the depths of the sea had been eaten by sharks and
turned into a home for coral, comes a sign that it is working. For now,
it is just about words because there is no evidence that kilobytes are
running through the cable, circulating data. No office has opened
offering a domestic connection to anyone who wants to contract for it,
and the prices of an hour's navigation from a hotel continue to be
prohibitive and abusive. In workplaces and schools the monthly quotas to
peek into cyberspace continue scarce and supervised, while the official
press makes no allusion to an immediate three thousand times increase in
our bandwidth. The cable is, but it doesn't exist; it exists, but not
for us.

Between La Guaira, Venezuela, and Santiago de Cuba runs an umbilical
cord that should turn us into a 21st Century country, remove our
technological and communications handicaps. When it arrived at our
shores in early 2011, not even the most pessimistic calculated that a
year later we would remain in the same poverty of connectivity. There is
not a single valid argument to delay any longer the mass influx of
Cubans on the Web, other than the eternal fear of our authorities before
the free flow of information. Every day that they delay our initiation
as Internauts, they compromise the professional and social capital of
this nation, they condemn us to the caboose of modernity. On the other
hand, so much control only opens the door to a million and one illegal
ways for people to get content from digital sites, blogs and on-line
newspapers. Like the satellite dishes that are a reality which neither
police operations nor threats from the newspaper Granma can eradicate,
something similar will occur with access to the great WorldWideWeb.
Pirate accounts, resold in the black market by State institution network
administrators themselves, are already a preview of this cyber underground.

Amid so many calls for information transparency, it is paradoxical that
one of the most pressing issues in our national life continues to be
steeped in secrecy. Also too painful for the official journalists is
that an official of a foreign government is the only person who has
alluded to the actual state of such an expensive link. But even more sad
is that the Internet is the new battlefield of the Cuban government and
the fiber optic cable is the weapon — selective and hidden — in its
media war.

29 May 2012

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