Monday, May 21, 2012

What happened to the ALBA-1 undersea cable?

(AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)
Associated Press reporter Andrea Rodgriguez, @ARodriguezAP, has published an article stating that "mystery shrouds the fate" of the ALBA-1 undersea cable linking Venezuela and Cuba.

Cuban officials promised that the cable would in use last fall, but Rodriguez finds no evidence that it is use in government offices or elsewhere.  She interviewed a dozen employees of public institutions who said they have seen no noticeable improvement in their work connections.  Some said that download speeds have even gotten a little slower.  She also made "multiple attempts to get Cuban and Venezuelan government officials to comment," but was unsuccessful.

She is a reporter who is on the ground in Cuba and unable to find evidence of the deployment or application of the cable.

How might we explain this?  I can think of three hypotheses:
  1. There have been claims of corruption, and some of the peple Rodgriguez interviewed corroborate that assertion.
  2. I have suggested earlier that a fast undersea cable would be a strong link in a weak (or nonexistent) chain if Cuba's domestic Internet infrastructure were not upgraded to utilize it.  Skilled networking technicians would also be needed.  Perhaps capital to upgrade the domestic network is not available.
  3. The Arab Spring may have frightened the government.   Raúl Castro opposed the Internet when Cuba connected in the mid-1990s.  In October 1997 he stated that "Glasnost, which undermined the USSR and other socialist countries, consisted of handing over the mass media, one by one, to the enemies of socialism." Perhaps he fears an Internet supported "Cuban Spring."
Or, maybe the answer is none of the above -- or all of the above.  Whatever the reason, it seems that a reported 70 million dollar investment is gathering barnacles and little more.

Is Ms. Rodgriguez wrong?  Does anyone have evidence of the cable being in operation?  I would love to hear about it and, even better, run a few pings and traceroutes.