“Slow, Expensive and Restricted”

Internet, Intranet and Social Media in Cuba

Getting online in Cuba is not an easy task. Only a fraction of the population has access to the internet, which “does not necessarily mean that they have access to the World Wide Web”, as Reporters Without Borders put it. Access is not only expensive and slow but also oftentimes restricted to just a number of approved websites, an intranet, RWB writes. However, there is a small but lively blogosphere on the island. At the same time, accessing content seems to stay difficult for most Cubans. Now, after years of slow satellite access, the first undersea fiber optic cable has been installed, raising hopes that the situation might change. But sceptics doubt that the new cable from Venezuela, supposed to start transmission this summer, will enable Cubans to freely access online-content.

In “Cuba 1.5? The State of the Internet and Uses of Social Media in a Changing Cuba“, three experts discuss their studies, knowledge and outlook of internet technology and its impact on the Carribean island: Researcher Ted Henken gives a glimpse into the Cuban blogosphere. Robert Guerra of the Internet Freedom project compares internet in Cuba to the situation in other countries and puts the new cable in its (socialist) context: Neither Venezuela nor China, which aids in setting up the cable, embrace an open web, according to Guerra. His perspective is rather grim: “the internet cubans are going to access through this cable will not be the real internet”, but a “highly repressive” one.

Interestingly enough, Cuba once used to be the Carribean leader in pre-internet networking, according to Larry Press, professor at California State University.