Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cuba's broadband connectivity plan

The International Telecommunication Union advocates nations formulating broadband plans. They stated the case for broadband planning in a 2013 report on the correlation between national broadband plans and citizens’ access to affordable service. In a subsequent report, they surveyed the state of national planing and found that 140 nations had national plans, 13 were working on them and 43 were not.

Cuba was one of the 13 in the process of planning, and the Ministry of Communication has now drafted a national plan for developing broadband infrastructure and the executive summary was leaked on the Chirnadecuba blog.

They define broadband as a connection speed of at least 256 kbit/s, saying that will advance to 2,048 kbit/s (download) by 2025 and 10 mbits/sec (download) by 2030. For comparison, the Federal Communication Commission revised the US definition of broadband from 4 mbits/s download and 1 mbits/s upload to 25 mbits/s download and 3 mbits/s upload and Google Fiber and others are rolling out 1 gbit/s up and down in selected cities.

This is indicative of a DSL roll-out in Cuba, which I have advocated earlier as a short run step toward a modern Internet, but the 2030 goal strikes me as low for 15 years from now. I am also struck with the mention of download speed, but not upload speed -- a nation of content creators would want fast upload as well.

The plan includes lists of conceptual and economic barriers in the way of broadband connectivity and goals like connecting institutions and homes, improving cybersecurity and the environment and improving university and research connectivity. Each goal has a list of specific objectives like connecting every university and research institute to the national research and education network at a speed of at least 256 kbit/s for 30% of the users and 2 mbit/s for 70% of the users.

There are also lists of implementation guidelines, recommendations like evaluate building another Internet exchange and check the prices of personal computers and smart phones. There are also two resolutions -- approve this plan by June 22, 2015 and prepare an implementation timetable by October 2015. There was no mention of who should approve it and no request for comments.

This is just the executive summary -- I have not seen the full document. It is far from an implementable action plan and it raises more questions than it answers -- for example, when they say "Internet connectivity," do they mean international Internet connectivity and, if so, is it over satellite or undersea cable? Still. it is more than we are used to seeing from Cuba. Hopefully we will learn a lot more in October.

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