Monday, March 21, 2016

Google will provide a free hotspot in Havana

The hotspot when it opened last March

A year ago, Cuban artist Kcho opened a free public hotspot with a DSL connection to the Internet. Today, Google announced that they would be providing a 70 mbps link from Kcho's studio to the Internet. As before, Kcho is paying the bill and providing free connectivity.

The hotspot will be open five days a week, from 7 a.m. to midnight, for about 40 people at a time. Google will also provide Chromebooks and Cardboard viewers (with phones??) at the center.

Forty people sharing 70 mbps is slow and 40 people in a nation of over 11 million is not meaningful, but, like the DSL link last year, it will generate a lot of publicity. (If it turns out they are provisioning 70 mbps for each of 40 users, 2.8 gbps, it will become a cool demonstration/inspireation site).

Kcho being interviewed

It would be interesting to know what the infrastructure supporting this hotspot looks like and whether it is related to the recently announced broadband pilot study for parts of Old Havana. (Scroll to the end of the post).

Google's announcement says they are "also exploring additional possibilities around increasing and improving Internet access, but they’re at early stages." Google could do so much more. For example, they have installed wholesale fiber backbones in two African capitals and are offering service to competing retail ISPs. It's hard to imagine ETECSA allowing that, but one can dream ...

Google's wholesale fiber backbones

Update 3/23/2016

Here is a short video clip of Kcho and Google Representative Brett Perlmutter outside Kcho's studio, talking about their plans for connectivity, Chromebooks and Cardboard.

I've made inquiries, but still have no details on the Internet link. Stay tuned.

Update 3/23/2016

Laptops on a table inside the new Google technology center that will offer free internet at the studio of Cuban artist Alexis Leiva Machado, better known as Kcho.

I was hoping to see Pixel Chromebooks, but this is just a start -- Google announced that they would accomodate 40 simultainous users and there would also be Google Cardboard and phones.

Ramón Espinosa/AP

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