Monday, January 14, 2013

What's up with the ALBA-1 cable? Time to follow the money.

MIC Minisiter Maimir Mesa
commenting on the ALBA-1 cable
Last week I received an email from Doug Madory of Renesys Corporation, the Internet monitoring company. Doug is the analyst who, last May, provided us with smoking-gun evidence that the ALBA-1 undersea cable was not carrying Internet traffic.

Doug says there has been "no change on connectivity in Cuba. Still all satellite." He promises to keep an eye on the situation and let us know if it changes.

He also provided a link to a post entitled "What Happened to the Cable? Cubans Discuss Internet Access" on Global Voices, a portal for blogs and citizen media.

The post links to a number of Cuban blogs with posts about the cable and notes that, after much interest and hype, the news has gone silent. Consider, for example, this post from the blog From Inside Cuba. The post chronicles the coverage of the cable in the blog Cubadebate starting in 2007 and suddenly stopping in 2011. It concludes with a long list of pointed questions.

This post is consistent with what we have observed earlier and the fact that Minisiter of Informatics and Communication Maimir Mesa said nothing about the cable in his recent report to Parliament.

On the surface it seems that $70 million was spent on a cable that was installed with no thought of how it would be used or what sort of domestic infrastructure would be needed to exploit it, and then, it was abandoned.

One has to ask what is going on. I am not a journalist, but, if I were, I would follow the money. Posts in PSLWeb, The Cable Directory and BNAmericas (account required), make it sound like the funding was provided in a $70 million loan from China to Venezuela.

Did the $70 million came from the Chinese taxpayer? If not, where did it come from? How much of it went to Alcatel Lucent for their work? How much to people in China, Cuba and Venezuela and who got it? It seems there may be invisible hands in socialist economies as well as capitalist.