Friday, September 21, 2012

Cuba and Super WiFi

Cuba and Super WiFi
September 20, 2012
Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — The war on technological development is already lost.
This was learned by the English workers when they tried to stop the
industrial revolution by destroying the machinery they believed was
taking their jobs.

Things are accelerating even faster in cyberspace, and whoever doesn't
keep up will be swallowed by a black hole or conquered by their enemies.
In this epoch, trying to remain isolated in a bubble is as utopian as
destroying those industrial-age machines.

Cuba's authorities have had all the time in the world to give cyberspace
a place on the island.

They have also had the necessary human, material and international
support, yet — inexplicably — the country continues to lag behind.

For more than a year the underwater fiber-optic cable that was promised
to increase Cuba's connectivity by 3,000 times should have been in
operation. However that still hasn't happened, and the leadership of the
Ministry of Communications refuses to explain why.

Rumors are circulating from Miami assuring me that the cable is
operating and that it's only being used by the Ministry of the Interior,
while people in Cuba tell me that the trial is about to begin of those
who were most responsible for this multi-million-dollar scam.

The impact of this fleecing should be measured not only because of the
economic losses, but also for its social and political consequences. The
lack of connectivity leaves most Cubans on the fringe of the world and
cedes the power of information to the extremes.

On the one pole there's a group of pro-government webpages that repeat
everything that comes "from above." They do this even when — without the
least shred of evidence — they're asked to accuse major Cuban
intellectuals of being spies for the CIA.

In this way they ensure their connection, because the bandwidth for
Internet access by Cuban journalists is regulated directly by the
"protectors of the faith," so only colleagues who they consider
"ideologically pure" are rewarded with high-speed ADSL connections.

Others are relegated to navigating at 56 kbps – a speed so slow that
when you go to Google and search "news," you can go to make some coffee
and come back 15 minutes later to find that still nothing has opened.
Photos take even longer and videos are impossible.

At the other extreme are the cyber-dissidents who enjoy high-speed
access thanks to the generous but not disinterested assistance of
several embassies – first among them being the US Interests Section,
which provides internet hours as if it were a cybercafé.

Obama believes in the network and is placing his bets on Cubans' access
to the Internet being the way to end the revolution. His subordinates
are creating underground networks and video games to achieve what
couldn't be accomplished by the military invasion from Miami or 50 years
of embargo.

Meanwhile, technology continues forward. A "super WiFi" and is being
tested in several US regions to eliminate any inaccessible holes of
Internet coverage. Networks are being deployed that can cover more than
a hundred miles at the amazing speed of 22 Mbps.

As soon as the notion of a super-WiFi became public, the propaganda
machines started cranking up. While the anti-Castro elements are asking
to use it to break the isolation of the Cuban people, the communists are
describing it as a weapon for conducting information warfare against Cuba.

It's a sure thing that there will be those on the island who will seek
technical measures to block access to the "imperial" super Wi-Fi, but
I'm confident that sensible people will understand that these resources
should themselves be used to create connections to the network.

The battle against technology has no future because eventually
development will continue knocking down all walls. Cuba's government
can't prevent it; it can only decide whether Cubans access the world
through it or through its enemies.
(*) A Havana Times translation published with the authorization of BBC

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