Google signs internet deal with Cuba's telecommunications monopoly
Reuters | Dec 12, 2016 07:05PM ET
By Marc Frank
HAVANA (Reuters) - Google signed an agreement with the Cuban government
on Monday granting internet users on the Communist-run island quicker
access to its branded content.
Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet
(NASDAQ:GOOGL) Inc, signed the deal with Mayra Arevich Marin, president
of state telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. It grants Cubans speedy
access to the Google Global Cache network, which stores content from
sites like Gmail and YouTube on servers located closer to end users.
In a country where public internet access is limited to slow and
expensive Wi-Fi hot spots, it was not clear how the deal would actually
impact service in the short term.
"This deal allows ETECSA to use our technology to reduce latency by
caching some of our most popular high bandwidth content like YouTube
videos at a local level," a Google statement said.
"This may improve reception of cached materials, but not for example
email which depends on local bandwidth," a local telecommunications
technician said, requesting anonymity for fear of losing his job.
Google and ETECSA were not immediately available for comment.
President Barack Obama has made improved internet access a central part
of his efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, first announced two
However, Cuba to date has balked at allowing U.S. companies to
participate in wiring the country, citing national security concerns.
Whether because of a lack of investment or concerns about the flow of
information in a Communist state that monopolizes the media, Cuba has
lagged behind in internet usage. Only 5.6 percent of Cuban homes had
either intranet or internet access last year, according to a U.N. agency.
The Google deal comes as officials in Havana and Washington are working
to wrap up pending commercial accords before President Barack Obama
leaves office next month.
President-elect Donald Trump has threatened to scrap detente between the
Cold War foes unless Cuba makes political and other concessions.
Improved bilateral relations have been accomplished through executive
orders circumventing trade embargo laws and can easily be reversed by Trump.
The Obama administration has said it hopes increased commercial links
between the two countries will make it difficult for future
administrations to undo the recent warming in U.S.-Cuba relations.
(Corrects figure in 9th paragraph on homes connected to internet or Cuba
intranet, to 5.6 percent instead of 3.4 percent.)
Source: Google signs internet deal with Cuba's telecommunications
monopoly By Reuters -