Monday, July 19, 2021

President Díaz-Canel, The Cuban Internet is more than Facebook on a cell phone -- don't be afraid of it.

The Internet could and should be controlled and used to serve peace and development.
Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, Cuban Minister of Informatics and Communications, 1997

Ramiro Valdés Menéndez
As a result of Internet service interruption during the recent anti-government protests in Cuba, Florida Senator Rubio and Governor DeSantis and President Biden have called for measures to strengthen and guarantee Cuban Internet connectivity, but that won't happen until the Cuban government recognizes that doing so is in its long-run interest.

I have seen several suggestions that we smuggle end-user satellite terminals from services like SpaceX Starlink into Cuba but attempts to smuggle in end-user terminals by Alan Gross and others disguised as surfing equipment have failed spectacularly. Furthermore, they would have been inconsequential drops-in-the bucket had they succeeded.

However, if the Cuban government would permit it, SpaceX service in Cuba would benefit the Cuban people and, in doing so, strengthen the position of the Cuban government.

There have also been several proposals to provide undersea cable connectivity to Cuba. The most recent one was killed in the US, but I'm confident that President Biden would support it (or another one) if the Cuban government would permit it.

I served on the advisory subcommittees to the Cuban Internet Task Force, and made a number of recommendations for facilitating Cuban Internet connectivity. Again, none of these proposals would work without the support of the Cuban government.

The Cuban government was frightened by the role mobile phones running communication and social media applications played in the protests, but mobile apps are one small part of the full Internet. Widespread fixed broadband connectivity via satellite and improved cable capacity would have positive effects on the economy, education, healthcare, entertainment, etc. thereby enhancing the government’s standing with the people.

Fidel Castro opens the Youth Computer Clubs
When the Internet first came to Cuba, there was a high-level debate on its risks and rewards. Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, then Minister of Informatics and Communications, is often quoted as calling the Internet "the wild stallion of the new technologies" and a potential tool for "global extermination" but he went on to say it "could and should be controlled and used to serve peace and development." Fidel Castro also recognized the potential upside of the Internet and supported the establishment of Youth Computer Clubs throughout the nation. (They were networked using pre-Internet technology).

The same debate took place in China around that time, and they decided on a robust, but controlled Internet. It would be great if the US could convince the Cubans that the Chinese and Valdés were right. If we cannot, the Chinese, with their own satellite and cable projects, may.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Internet during the anti-government protests in Cuba

On Sunday, July 11, thousands of Cubans, took to the streets in anti-government protests triggered by COVID, the faltering economy and an overwhelmed healthcare system. In four days, at least 118 large and small protests took place across the island. The following is a snapshot of an interactive, crowd-sourced map showing the locations of the demonstrations (94 reported on the 11th, 14 on the 12th, 7 on the 13th and 3 on the 17th).
For the interactive version, many with images and videos, click here. As the images and photos show, the government responded with arrests and violence in some cases.

The government also began blocking the Internet on the evening of the 11th, as shown in the following graph, posted by Doug Madory, Director of Internet Analysis at Kentik.

It was totally blocked for a short time, then partially blocked. Madory speculated that they may have been trying to figure out how to block certain portions of the country.

Several messaging apps were blocked during the protest period. As you see below, the encrypted messaging app, Signal, was blocked at 10:41 PM on July 11 and was still down on the 17th. (UTC is four hours ahead of Cuban time). Messaging apps WhatsApp and Telegram were also blocked, but not Facebook Messenger.

Cloudflare was also monitoring the situation in Cuba and, as shown below, there was a marked shift from mobile to desktop traffic. I read reports that mobile access had been cut off, and there are periods where 100% of traffic was from desktop users, but some mobile traffic moved during the protests.
Another interesting shift was in the percent of traffic written by humans to that from bots. Some of this shift may be a result of the blocking of human traffic or from increases in search engine activity. Since they report percents rather than absolute levels, it is hard to know.
In spite of blocking and suspension of Internet service in Cuba, there was a roughly three times increase in Cuban traffic during the protest time -- Cuba was in the news and Cubans were doing their best to communicate.

When blocked, many Cubans accessed the global Internet using the Psiphon VPN service. As shown below, the number of VPN users grew steadily during the protest period and reached a peak of 1.389 million daily unique users on July 15. I bet many new people learned about VPNs and learned to use Psiphon during the days of protest.

The Cuban protests and Internet shutdown attracted widespread attention and we have seen sympathy demonstrations throughtout the world -- particularly in Florida. Politicians from Florida's Governor Desantis and Senator Rubio to President Biden have spoken out in support of the Cuban people and called for some sort of technical intervention to strengthen and guarantee Cuban Interent access, but I don't see how that can happen without the agreement of the Cuban government.

The Internet-supported protests in Egypt led to the downfall of a dictitorial government, but the euphoria was short lived since the protesters were polarized.  Large crowds took part in pro-government rallies across Cuba on the 17th. Let's hope for political reform and compromise in Cuba.

Monday, March 22, 2021

A look at Cuba's digital revolution

In spite of having slow, expensive, government-controlled Internet infrastructure, Cuba is undergoing what Ted Henken and Sara Garcia Santamaria refer to as a digital revolution.

The digital revolution might be said to have begun in 2007 when Yoani Sánchez launched her blog "Generation Y." Internet access was difficult -- she would get illegal connectivity at tourist hotels and the blog was initially hosted in Germany. Soon, the Huffington Post began publishing her posts, and she has subsequently received many international awards, including the Ortega y Gasset Award for Digital Journalism in 2008.

I recall reading of her teaching others to blog at her home and other blogs followed, but that was just the start of the digital revolution. Today, she publishes a daily digital newspaper 14Ymedio which is available in Spanish and English and there are many independent (non-government) media sites that cover fashion, sports, art, music, and technology as well as news, commentary, and current events.

Since Cuba had and still has very poor Internet infrastructure, one might ask how this digital content is distributed. The digital-distribution revolution began in 2008 with el Paquete Semanal, the "weekly package" of digital material distributed on hard and flash drives that became a nation-wide sneakernet. El Paquete is financed by advertising and customer fees and it has been suggested that it is the nation's largest private employer. In 2015, the Government began opening public-access WiFi hotspots. Cubans hackers also created local community networks which did not have a connection to the global Internet. The largest, Havana's SNET, had an estimated 100,000 users before it was taken over by the government. More recently, 3G mobile service was introduced and now 4G is beginning to roll out.

Cuba's independent media and ad-hoc distribution channels are a product of a culture of innovation -- from restoring old cars and equipping bicycles with lawn-mower engines to creating community networks like SNET, software startups, and work as independent, self-employed programmers. Necessity is the mother of invention.

I've been speaking of media, but Henken estimates that there is also a digitally-convened movement or protest in Cuba every two months or so. He describes several of these and their leaders in this article.

If you are interested in more on Cuba's digital media revolution, check out Henken's recent interview at Tulane University. (It's over an hour-long, but he speaks clearly so you can listen at 2X speed). He talks about Cuban media and introduces a forthcoming anthology he and Santamaria edited. In his presentation, Henken discusses independent Cuban media and summarizes each chapter of the book, which will be available from the University Press of Florida on June 1. Here is the table of contents:

Introduction

In Medias Res: Who Will Control Cuba’s Digital Revolution?, Ted A. Henken

Part I. History, Media, and Technology

1. The Past, Present, and Future of the Cuban Internet, Larry Press

2. Historical Itineraries and Cyclic Trajectories: Alternative Media Communication Technologies, and Social Change in Cuba, Edel Lima Sarmiento

Part II. Politics

3. Information and Communication Technology, State Power, and Civil Society: Cuban Internet Development in the Context of the Normalization of Relations with the United States, Olga Khrustaleva

4. Ghost in the Machine: The Incompatibility of Cuba’s State Media Monopoly with the Existence of Independent Digital Media and the Democratization of Communication, Alexei Padilla Herrera and Eloy Viera Cañive

5. The Press Model in Cuba: Between Ideological Hegemony and the Reinvention of Civic Journalism, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez Arechavaleta

6. Digital Critique in Cuba, Marie Laure Geoffray

Part III. Journalism

7. From Generación Y to 14ymedio: Beyond the Blog on Cuba’s Digital Frontier, Ted A. Henken

8. Independent Journalism in Cuba: Between Fantasy and the Ontological Rupture, Sara Garcia Santamaria

9. Perceptions of and Strategies for Autonomy among Journalists Working for Cuban State Media, Anne Natvig

10. Independent Media on the Margins: Two Cases of Journalistic Professionalization in Cuba’s Digital Media Ecosystem, Abel Somohano Fernández and Mireya Márquez-Ramírez

Part IV. Business and Economy

11. Online Marketing of Touristic Cuba: Branding a “Tech-Free” Destination, Rebecca Ogden

12. A Una Cuba Alternativa”? Digital Millennials, Social Influencing, and Cuentapropismo in Havana, Jennifer Cearns

Part V. Culture and Society

13. Without Initiation Ceremonies: Cuban Literary and Cultural E-zines, 2000–2010, Walfrido Dorta

14. Images of Ourselves: Cuban Mediascapes and the Post-socialist “Woman of Fashion,” Paloma Duong

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

SpaceX's Starlink service in Cuba would benefit the Cuban people, SpaceX, and the US.

SpaceX has begun the process of securing licenses to operate its Starlink Internet service in the Caribbean. I don't know which nations they are considering, but would advise them to seriously consider Cuba -- Starlink service in Cuba would benefit the Cuban people, SpaceX, and the US.

What's in it for Cuba?

Fixed home and commercial connectivity in Cuba are limited, slow, and expensive, but they do have shared connectivity -- 1,095 pubic WiFi hotspots and 346 public access rooms with a total of 1,304 computers. They also have 1,057 GSM, 2,611 UMTS, and 768 LTE cell towers.

I can't imagine Cuba permitting SpaceX to serve consumers, but Starlink could provide backhaul to cell towers, WiFi hotspots, and public access rooms in unserved areas. Cuban health care and education are arguably the best in the region and one can imagine every rural school and clinic connected to Starlink. Imagine providing those clinics with access to the resources at Cuba's globally-recognized health portal Infomed, which has been online since 1992.

The Cuban revolution sought to find a just urban/rural balance and years later the Internet reflected that. I did a study of the Internet in Cuba in 1998 and observed that relative to other developing nations, the Cuban Internet was geographically dispersed. Internet connectivity was only available in the capital city in 29 of the 44 African nations with Internet connectivity, whereas Infomed had a presence in every Cuban province and Cuba's 150 (at the time) Youth Computer Clubs, which provided computers for games and classes for young people and adults, had accounts in nearly every municipality. (The study is not cleared for publication, but I can send you a copy if you are interested). Starlink connectivity would help to achieve that sought-after just balance -- to shrink the digital divide.

Fidel Castro spoke at the opening of the Youth Computer Club headquarters in
Havana. His framed, handwritten inscription reads "I am jealous". (Source

What's in it for SpaceX?

Trained, demanding users are necessary for Internet growth, and with a population of over 11 million well-educated people -- about 25% of the Caribbean region -- Cuba has pent-up demand for Internet access. Furthermore, in spite of limited access to the global Internet, Cubans have had access to the domestic intranet at Youth Computer Clubs, school, and work and, recently, Internet access at the public access locations mentioned above.

Cuba also has the technical and content expertise needed to install and utilize enhanced connectivity. With little Internet connectivity, Cubans have improvised, developing

  • A thriving blogging community that has evolved into what Cuba-media scholar Ted Henken refers to as a "rich variety of independent digital journalism projects."
  • An entrepreneurial software startup community.
  • Self-employed computer programmers.
  • El Paquete Semanal (the weekly package), a compendium of news, entertainment, and software that has been distributed on hard and flash drives throughout the island for a decade by a well-organized, decentralized sneaker-net that is possibly the largest private employer in Cuba.
  • Hacker-built community networks including SNET in Havana which was the world's largest community network not connected to the Internet before it was taken over by the government.
Cuban ground stations could serve
much of the Caribbean
Cuba would also be a good location for Starlink ground stations serving Caribbean nations and ships in the Caribbean sea. One could be located at the ALBA 1 undersea cable landing point at Siboney Beach at the south-east end of the island. I have also argued that there should be another one 480 miles away at Cojimar, near Havana. I'm not kidding myself that anyone will pay attention to my recommendation, but someday there will be a cable landing near Havana and that would be a logical place for a second ground station. (Note that there is an existing Google Global Cache site in Cuba and a satellite ground station in Jaruco, about 25 miles from Havana, which was the site of the original Soviet Carib 1 ground station in 1974 and is now the site of the SES O3b middle Earth orbit (MEO) ground station).

What's in it for the US?

President Biden has promised to "reverse the failed Trump policies that inflicted harm on Cubans and their families” and a Starlink presence in Cuba would be a noteworthy step toward fulfilling his promise.

Cuba's first connection to the Internet was as a participant in the National Science Foundation (NSF) International Connectivity Program (ICP), which connected research and education networks in many developing nations. The NSF provided Cuba and other nations connectivity to The US NSFNET, which was the major global backbone at the time. The link from Cuba to Florida was provided by Sprint and Cisco provided routers.

US and Cuban policy quickly closed the door on US-Cuba networking and collaboration and China filled the vacuum. Today, Huawei is the dominant provider of Internet infrastructure from the national backbone to the WiFi hotspots and even the central office equipment used in Cuba's lame DSL home connectivity offering. They also sell phones in Cuba. If the Biden administration would cooperate and SpaceX was willing, Starlink could provide a crack in China's dominance in Cuba. If Cuba does not go with Starlink, they have a number of non-US alternatives including SES, which currently provides MEO connectivity, Telesat, and OneWeb, but the most likely provider is China's GW constellation.

DSR IT infrastructure projects as of 12/2018 ( source)
Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated recently that China poses a threat to the current international order and is America's "biggest geopolitical test of the 21st century." The foreign relations impact of Starlink in Cuba would be more important than opening a market for a single US company. The US embargo is unpopular in most Latin American and Caribbean nations and a Starlink presence in Cuba would improve our standing. It would also be a roadblock in the way of Chinese expansion of the "Digital Silk Road" portion of their global Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

There is a good chance that he would be turned down, but I hope Elon Musk takes a shot at offering Starlink in Cuba. Hopefully, he would have the support of the Biden administration as well as Google, a SpaceX investor that has been persistently active in Cuba since 2015. Cuba has gone its own way since 1958 and that has been good and bad, but it means that Cuba is somewhat unique and we could all benefit from improved access to Cuban art, science, medicine, music, etc. Starlink in Cuba would be a win for the world.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

A simple suggestion for President Biden regarding the Cuban Internet

President Biden has a lot on his plate, but having someone pursue a Cuban undersea cable would be simple and benefit both Cuba and the US.

The Cuban backbone (source)
Last September I asked what had happened to the proposal for a branch connecting the ARCOS undersea cable, which has a landing point in North Miami Beach, to Cojimar, Cuba. The consortium that operates the cable had applied for permission to connect Cuba in July 2018 and the FCC granted a request for streamlined processing, which should have taken less than 45 days, but nothing happened until September 2020 when the application was referred to a Justice Department committee for the assessment of foreign participation in the telecommunication services sector, that Trump had established in an executive order on April 4, 2020.

On October 26, 2020 -- shortly before the election -- the application was withdrawn without explanation. I asked the FCC officials involved why the processing had taken so long and why the application was withdrawn, but received no answer. I also filed Freedom of Information Act Requests with the FCC and Justice Department, but my questions were not answered. (Justice did not even reply).

But that is history -- spilled milk. During the campaign, President Biden said he would "try to reverse the failed Trump policies that inflicted harm on Cubans and their families" and he has taken steps to liberalize travel and remittances. He has a lot on his plate beside Cuba, but having someone pursue a Cuban undersea cable would be simple and benefit both Cuba and the US.

The first step would be to contact the operators of the ARCOS cable to see if they are still interested in the Cuban branch. If not, other options should be pursued. Daniel Sepulveda, who was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, in the Obama administration said there were at least a half-dozen proposals — from US and non-US companies — to construct a north-south undersea cable between the US and Cuba. There had also been discussion of one day allowing Cuban access to the US cable at Guantanamo, GTMO-1.

An undersea cable to the US would be a boost to the Cuban Internet. Nearly all Cuban international traffic is carried over the ALBA-1 cable, which lands at the south-east end of the island so traffic from heavily populated areas like Havana must traverse the national backbone. An undersea cable from Cojimar, which is near Havana, would reduce latency, free backbone capacity, save capital investment and provide a backup path in case of an outage.

Note that even Trump would agree with this proposal. His policy was to "amplify efforts to support the Cuban people through the expansion of internet services" and he directed government departments and agencies "to examine the technological challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access in Cuba." He also established a task force "to examine technological challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access in Cuba" and did nothing to reverse any of President Obama's Cuba telecommunication policies.

President Biden might be concerned that such a move might be politically damaging since Cuban-American voters in Florida favored Trump in the last election, but that is not a sure thing. The 2020 Florida International University Cuba Poll showed that among south Florida Cubans, young people are most liberal on issues like the embargo and all except those over 75 consider Cuba policy less important than the economy, health care, race, immigration, and China policy. Demographics and Trump's impeachments may have shifted Cuban voting patterns by 2022 or 2024.

Supporting an undersea cable between the US and Cuba would also enhance our reputaion in the region and encroach upon China's near monopoly as a vendor of Cuban Internet infrastructure. It would also strengthen the US's strategic position vis-a-vis China's expansion in the region.

President Obama sought rapproachmont with Cuba and several Internet-related proposals followed, but the result was disappointing. Trump and Raúl Castro are now ex-presidents so the ARCOS cable may stand a chance. (It would not be unprecedented -- Cuba's first connection to the Internet was through the US National Science Foundation International Connections Program for research and university networks in developing nations).

Update 4/5/2021

In March 2019, Google and ETECSA signed a memorandum of understanding committing to cost-free interchange of traffic between their networks once Cuba was able to connect to a new undersea cable that would be laid, presumably to Miami "sometime in the future." That cable has not yet been laid and I got no answer when I asked Google what the project status was last week.

Google has persisted in an effort to improve Cuban Internet connectivity and access for years but the effort has yielded very little. They have installed Google Global Cache servers in Cuba, enabling ETECSA to serve some Google content from within its own network, and established one public WiFi hotspot.

There were hopes for progress when President Obama visited Cuba, but the Cuban government under Raúl Castro was unwilling and Díaz-Canel was met by Trump. President Biden has a lot on his mind these days, but I hope Google is hanging in.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

What became of the ARCOS undersea cable connection to Cuba?

Will Trump kill the proposal before the election?


Proposed 56km link between the
ARCOS undersea Cable and Cuba
Cuba's primary connection to the global Internet is through the ALBA-1 undersea cable linking landing points on the south-east shore of the island to Venezuela and Jamaica; however, the bulk of Cuban traffic originates in Havana which is on the north-west coast. Traffic from Havana and other cities in the west travels over a backbone to reach the cable landing points. A landing point near Havana would reduce the load on the backbone, speeding connections, providing redundancy, and saving capital investment.

At one time, there seemed to be bipartisan support in the US for improving Cuban Internet access. During his second term, President Obama pursued detente with Cuba and much of that effort was focused on the role of the Internet and undersea cable connectivity was part of the plan. Daniel Sepulveda, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, who led two US government delegations to Cuba during the Obama administration, said there were at least a half-dozen proposals — from US and non-US companies — to construct a north-south undersea cable between the US and Cuba. There had even been discussion of one day allowing Cuban access to the US cable at Guantanamo, GTMO-1.

At first, Trump seemed to agree -- consider the following timeline:

  • October 20, 2017, The State Department issued National Security Presidential Memorandum, NSPM-5, stating that it was our policy to "Amplify efforts to support the Cuban people through the expansion of internet services" and directing government departments and agencies "to examine the technological challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access in Cuba."
  • January 22, 2018, The State Department established a Cuba Internet Task Force "to examine technological challenges and opportunities for expanding internet access in Cuba." (Disclosure -- The Task Force formed two sub-committees and I was a member of both).
  • July 23, 2018, The consortium that owns the ARCOS cable applied to construct a branch from the cable to an ETECSA supplied cable landing spot in Cojimar, Cuba.
  • August 10, 2018, The FCC found the application "to be acceptable for filing and subject to the streamlined processing procedures" obligating them to take action "within forty-five (45) days" unless upon "further examination" the application is "deemed ineligible for streamlined processing."
Well, it seems the application must have been deemed ineligible since as far as I know nothing happened until earlier this month when The Committee for the Assessment of Foreign Participation in the United States Telecommunications Services Sector (CAFPUSTSS), which Trump established in an executive order on April 4, 2020, notified the FCC that it is planning to conduct 120-day security reviews of the ARCOS application.

I reached out to the FCC and the attorney who filed the request for the cable branch to ask why the application had not been acted upon but got no reply. I can think of two possible explanations:
  • Trump changed his policy with respect to Cuban Internet connectivity without, as far as I know, telling anyone.
  • Trump held this application up in order to grab a Florida headline between now and the election when the CAFPUSTSS rejects the application showing how tough he is on Cuba in an effort to win Cuban and Venezuelan votes.
I'm unfamiliar with FCC procedures and workflow -- is there another explanation?

Finally, note that on March 15, 2018, Deep Blue Cable Inc. applied for a Caribbean cable with 19 landing points. While none of those were in Cuba, they planned a second phase with two Cuban landing points, but the Deep Blue application was withdrawn on November 11, 2019.

Update 11/30/2020

Denise Coca, FCC Division Chief, informed me that the ARCOS-1 application had been withdrawn on October 20, 2020, about two weeks before the election. When asked why the FCC had taken so long to process the application, she did not answer.

I wonder whether this might be re-submitted to the Biden FCC. Since the administration sought Cuban rapprochement during his time as Vice President, I imagine Biden would favor the link. One can argue that doing so would be a net political win among Florida voters. Would Cuban president Díaz-Canel approve it? It would reduce traffic on the Cuban backbone and improve international connectivity, but might be construed as a security threat and neutralize one of his complaints against the US.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

¿Existe un futuro para los emprendimientos tecnológicos privados en Cuba?

This is a guest post by Cuban professor Armando Camacho Costales.  It is a continuation of a previous postArmando is interested in the self-employment sector in Cuba and writes about the Internet on his blog Cuba 2.0.

Cuba posee una cantidad abrumadora de normas y barreras burocráticas que obstaculizan el desarrollo del sector privado de la economía. Sector mayoritariamente orientado hacia los servicios. Restaurantes y cafeterías, hostales, alquiler de casas y habitaciones y transporte de pasajeros representan más del 40% de las licencias activas al cierre del primer semestre del 2020. Otro 30% corresponden a trabajadores que constituye “fuerza de trabajo contratada” por esos “emprendedores”. Aproximadamente 25% lo constituyen trabajos artesanales o casi folclóricos (por ejemplo, desmochador de palmas); solo un 5%, 32 699 trabajadores, pueden ser considerados emprendimientos tecnológicos.    

Estos “negocios privados” tienen en el turismo, o en menor medida a los cubanos residentes en el extranjero, como sus principales clientes y fuente de ingresos. Una encuesta señala que el 75% de sus ingresos provienen de esos dos mercados. La escasez de productos de primera necesidad ha impulsado a las autoridades una cruzada de acciones policiales y judiciales en contra de las “actividades de la economía sumergida” por lo que a la pérdida del 75% de sus ingresos también enfrentan el desabastecimiento de insumos. En la antes citada encuesta los “cuentapropistas” declaran que su cadena de suministro proviene en un 21% del “mercado negro” o la “economía sumergida”. A lo anterior se le agrega los desajustes macroeconómicos y estructurales pendientes por resolver de la economía cubana.

Todo ello hace que el “trabajo por cuenta propia” (TCP) y sus “emprendimientos empresariales” enfrenten en la actualidad un colapso estructural solo comparable al “periodo especial” acontecido en la década de los noventas del pasado siglo.

De 632 557 “trabadores por cuenta-propia” (TCP) activos en febrero del 2020, 243 203 (38%) a finales de marzo solicitaron suspensión temporal para no operar a consecuencia de la pandemia del SARS COV2. Los más afectados resultaron los trabajadores contratados con 60 318 (25%), transportistas 42 213 (18%), arrendadores de habitaciones 21 714 (9%) y servicios gastronómicos 14 464 (6%); de acuerdo a cifras oficiales.

La situación empeora con respecto al pequeño y dinámico número de emprendimientos en el sector info-telecomunicaciones; la autorización de nuevas licencias está suspendida desde 2017 a la espera que el Ministerio de las Comunicaciones actualice el alcance de la actividad. Hasta la fecha se mantienen las tres (3) actividades aprobadas hace ya más de una década:

  • Agente de telecomunicaciones y agente postal
  • Reparador de equipos electrónicos
  • Programador de equipos de cómputo.

Al cierre del primer semestre del 2020 trabajan como "Agente de telecomunicaciones y agente postal” 27 888, “Reparador de equipos electrónicos” 3 747 y “Programador de equipos de cómputo” 1 064 trabajadores. Un total de 32 699; 5% de todas las licencias activas al cierre del primer semestre del 2020.

“Agentes de telecomunicaciones” la actividad comienza a desarrollarse a partir del 2014 cuando se les permitió a los cubanos el acceso a internet y representan el 85% del total y no requiere conocimiento técnico alguno al ser los encargados de gestionar la venta y el cobro de los servicios de ETECSA percibiendo por ello una comisión por estas ventas. La edad promedio de estos trabajadores sobrepasa los 45 años y constituye un ingreso suplementario para muchos pensionados. Por su parte ETECSA disminuye personal, costos de oficina, salarios y al mismo tiempo acercan sus servicios a las comunidades, muchas de ellas pequeñas comunidades rurales, las 24 horas del día los siete días de la semana.

“Reparador de equipos electrónicos” sus titulare son los empresarios de la mayor parte de los talleres de reparación e instalación de aplicaciones para los teléfonos inteligentes, computadoras personales y demás dispositivos. Desde el 2016 se encuentran en el entorno de los 3740 trabajadores activos; con muy pocas nuevas incorporaciones; la edad promedio 35 años. De las tres actividades es la que más empleo crea pues el 50% de los titulares declara emplear al menos a otro trabajador por cuenta propia.

“Programador de equipos de cómputo” representa el 3% con 1 064 licencias, cifra inferior a la repostada en nuestro primer análisis.  Es la más dinámica y volátil de las tres; con estudios universitarios y edad promedio 30 años.

Desde el 2017 no se han incorporado nuevos programadores; pero 745 han abandonado la actividad desde igual fecha. Las licencias se encuentran en su mínimo en los últimos cinco años. La de mayor concentración geográfica, el 67% (712) residen en La Habana.  

Las tres actividades por cuenta propia se encontraban paralizadas desde finales del 2016; mucho antes del cierre por la pandemia de la COVID-19; la consecuente depresión económica, solo ha amplificado la tendencia a la baja de los últimos cuatro años.

Los negocios particulares resurgieron en la Isla como una necesidad, más que una opción, para enfrentar el colapso económico del 1994 y el subsiguiente desplome de industrias tradicionales como la agro-azucarera; la que no logrado recuperar sus niveles de exportación anteriores a 1989.


El trabajo por cuenta propia constituye uno de los sectores más dinámicos y volátiles de la economía nacional, representa entre un 7% y 15% del PIB y ha creado más de 600 mil nuevos empleos.

Su reto hoy será encontrar los mecanismos internos y externos mínimos para sobrevivir el colapso del 2020 y para las autoridades gubernamentales y reguladoras la urgencia de establecer políticas agiles y realistas acordes a la nueva realidad que impida le ocurra algo similar con las exportaciones de azúcar refinada.  

¿Es posible reconvertir el trabajo por cuenta propia en pequeñas y medianas empresas más orientadas a la nueva economía digital?

Para ello es necesario establecer cuanto antes un paquete de ayudas crediticias-fiscales y reformas operativas y de gestión que detenga la actual tendencia al decrecimiento, después adelantar el proyectado cronograma legislativo que permita promulgar cuanto antes las anunciadas nuevas leyes de: empresas, de inversión extranjera o fiscales.  

Las actuales normas vigentes para el sector tecnológico privado han sido modificadas dos veces entre el 2018 y el 2019, las cifras demuestran que han fracasaron; ahora bajo las actuales circunstancias económicas están obsoletas.

¿Existe un futuro para los emprendimientos privados tecnológicos en Cuba?

El futuro para los emprendimientos privados en el sector tecnológico es sombrío, difícil de predecir, y a los efectos prácticos se encuentra prácticamente detenido; podría llegar a mínimos históricos o desaparecer la actividad de programadores para el 2021.   Para evitar esta posibilidad urge:

  • Otorgar cuanto antes nuevas licencias. Aumentar o diversificar el número de licencias en sectores con mayor valor añadido como las del sector tecnológico; con ello se al menos se podría detener la actual tendencia decreciente y el éxodo de un personal altamente calificado.
  • Aprobar un mayor alcance para los programadores se les permita la posibilidad legal de comercializar nacional e internacionalmente sus productos, servicios o bienes; asociarse en cooperativas o espacios de “coworking” de acuerdo a las mejores prácticas internacionales e importar equipos o servicios de alta tecnología.
  • Modificar o eliminar las actuales estructuras verticales por otras más dinámicas de conformidad con la actual revolución tecnológica del siglo XXI.
  • Reformar la actual política fiscal para el sector privado. Identificada por el sector como la mayor barrera que impide su desarrollo. La política tributaria debería establecer impuestos similares al sector privado o estatal; la actual estructura fiscal afecta el flujo de caja, la creación de nuevos empleos e incita a la elusión y evasión fiscal.
  • Facilitar la reconversión de estos negocios personales en pequeñas y medianas empresas con oportunidades análogas a las otras formas de propiedad en la economía nacional.

Proyecciones de la Organización Mundial del Turismo (OIT)  prevé  una caída entre el 60% y el 80% del sector, y una lenta recuperación en el 2021 (condicionada a que se pueda detener la pandemia). Con estas proyecciones tampoco se prevé una recuperación a corto plazo de la economía cubana. Permitir que desaparezcan 300 mil empleos privados junto al 10% del PIB en dos años no debería ser una opción para la sociedad cubana.    

La actual recesión económica podría funcionar como una ventana de oportunidades a mediano plazo que permita la transformación de los actuales (y la creación de nuevos emprendimientos privados) más orientados al sector productivo para satisfacer las demandas básicas de una sociedad desde la perspectiva de una nueva economía digital” y una sociedad del conocimiento al servicio de otros emprendimientos en los sectores primario y secundario. Estos negocios tecnológicos proveerían herramientas y conocimientos para incrementar la calidad, la rentabilidad y la productividad de toda la estructura económica nacional.   

 

Monday, February 24, 2020

Mass-produced propaganda -- a Cuban example

An "author" named Admin posted over 1,000
articles in seven languages in two weeks.


Earlier this month, Google sent me several notifications for an article entitled "The Internet Is Widely Accessible in Cuba. Why Is the US Insisting It Isn’t?" I checked it out and found that Reese Erlich had posted it on Truthout.org, a left-leaning Web site, on February 12. On the 13th, Cabasi.com published a shortened version of the article and Salon.com published the original version on the 17th. These were all in English and both Salon and Cubasi credited Truthout.

I also received notification of an article entitled "Internet es ampliamente accesible en Cuba. ¿Por qué Estados Unidos insiste en que no lo es?" that was published February 13 at DiarioDeLatinos.com.

It turns out that DiarioDeLatinos also published English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Russian versions of the same article on the 13th. The seven versions of the article were all written by the same author, Admin, with a little help from Google Translate, which rendered "New York Times" as "New York Instances" in the first paragraph. Admin is prolific -- he or she had posted 1,072 articles on DiarioDeLatinos.com as of the morning of February 18th and DiarioDeLatinos.com was registered on February 4th. The registrant organization is Domains By Proxy, LLC, which is located at the GoDaddy Headquarters building in Scottsdale, Arizona:
Registry Registrant ID: Not Available From Registry
Registrant Name: Registration Private
Registrant Organization: Domains By Proxy, LLC
Registrant Street: DomainsByProxy.com
Registrant Street: 14455 N. Hayden Road
Registrant City: Scottsdale
Registrant State/Province: Arizona
Registrant Postal Code: 85260
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.4806242599
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax: +1.4806242598
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email: diariodelatinos.com@domainsbyproxy.com
Registry Admin ID: Not Available From Registry
Admin Name: Registration Private
Private domain registration is reminiscent of banks facilitating money laundering. I wonder what else Domains By Proxy is hiding.

Finally, I took a look at what the censors at Cubasi deleted when they edited the original article. They cut mention of tools like the Signal encrypted messaging app and VPNs, the fact that Cubans can download El Nuevo Herald, and Cuba’s blocking of Web sites. They also deleted references to dissidents like Yoani Sanchez or Ladies in White and admissions that only 38 percent of Cubans are connected to the web compared to 70 percent for all of Latin America, 3G wireless is being installed in Cuba while much of the world is switching over to 5G, Cuba lacks convertible currency, Cubans don’t have the bandwidth to stream video and El Paquete is “by far” the most popular technology for Cubans.

This was not Cuba's first foray into online propaganda. In 2013, Eliécer Ávila described Operation Truth in which 1,000 university students were writing social media posts favoring the government and working as "trolls," disrupting discussion and attacking those who question the government and last month Granma posted a propaganda/conspiracy article about US subversion.

I wonder how much Internet propaganda the Cuban government sponsored between 2013 and 2020 and I worry about the fact that any government could do the same.

Update 2/26/2020

A reader sent me a link to a claim of sock-puppet trolls working for the Cuban government and another pointed out that the term of art is "Ciberclaria" and if you Google that term, you will find more examples like this or this.

(This post is mirrored on my class blog covering Internet applications, implications and technology).

Friday, January 10, 2020

Cuban fake news about some fake news

Four CITF winners (source)
When the Cuba Internet Task Force (CITF) was established, it was touted as being formed for the benefit of the Cuban people, but that was fake news.

Granma recently posted a Trump-worthy article charging that the U. S. finances mercenary groups and gives scholarships to train young Cubans as fake leaders in a dirty Internet war on Cuba. The article also alleges that activists who live in Florida, Texas, Tennessee and Georgia have tried to manipulate Cuban opinion on the constitutional referendum using the hashtag #YoVotoNo on Twitter and it claims we do similar things in Iran and Bolivia.

I am not sufficiently naive to think that the US has never meddled with the Internet in Cuba and have blogged extensively about the Alan Gross case, Zunzuneo and the attempted smuggling of satellite receivers disguised as surfing equipment, but the claims made in this article are bogus. It is telling that there there are no links in the story -- nothing to substantiate any of the claims -- and I have first-hand knowledge of the central claim that:
In February of 2018, the so-called Cuba Internet Task Force was created, following instructions outlined in a Presidential memorandum on national security, released June 16, 2017. The website Razones de Cuba has documented that the CIA’s Political Action Group and institutions on the task force have highly qualified specialists who, based on models previously developed through Big Data, sent sector-specific messages to Cubans.
The CITF established two subcommittees, one to explore and develop recommendations on the role of the media and the free, unregulated flow of information through independent media in Cuba and the other to explore and develop recommendations for expanding Internet access in Cuba. I attended the first meeting of the Internet-access subcommittee, participated in the online discussions of both and reviewed and commented on their draft recommendations.

The Task Force Final Report is short -- only 1,904 words on 6 double-spaced pages. (This post is 631 words). It consists of a summary of the state of the Cuban Internet and regulatory policy followed by nine fairly obvious, tersely stated recommendations. I am unaware of any impact it has had on U. S. or Cuban action or policy.

The CIA and its Political Action Group (PAG) are not mentioned in the report and were never mentioned during the discussion leading up to it. No form of cyberattack or propaganda was discussed by the Task Force or called for in the final report. In short, this was a bland report and the Task Force was a show for Florida voters.

The quote regarding the CIA and PAG are taken from the English language version of the story. It is noteworthy that it has been edited out of the Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Portuguese versions. Each version credits the same author and I reached out to him asking about this but did not receive a reply. Furthermore, the article credits the Razones de Cuba Web site with having documented this CIA PAG meddling. I searched their Web site for terms like Grupo de trabajo, grupo de tarea and and 1984, but got no hits.

You get the picture -- the CITF did not work with the CIA and this Granma article does not document any of the charges it makes. In fact, it includes no links or quotes -- just assertions. When the CITF was established, it was touted as being formed for the benefit of the Cuban people, but that was fake news. It was a political move, intended to give Trump a boost in Florida. It also provided Cuba with propaganda fodder for articles like this one and strengthened the economic and political ties between Cuba and Russia and China.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Could ETECSA at least talk with SpaceX?

Consider the following:
Could ETECSA at least talk with SpaceX?

Update 1/9/2020

For a Spanish translation of this post, click here.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

5G for fixed connectivity in Cuba

ETECSA reports that over 110,100 Cuban households have DSL connectivity using their Nauta Hogar service. There are also shared facilites -- 986 WiFi hotspots (127 in Havana) and 347 Navigation Rooms (44 in Havana) with 1,309 computers (304 in Havana).

These services are dead-ends on the road to hoped-for "computerization." The Cuban population is around 11 million so, after three years, roughly one person in 100 lives in a Nauta home and the services are limited geographically since DSL is only available in the vicinity of telephone central offices and WiFi hotspots and Navigation Rooms are at fixed locations. Furthermore, the connection speeds are low and the prices high.

When the U. S. began making fixed Internet connections to homes, schools, businesses, etc., we had an installed inventory of relatively new last-mile phone lines, television cables, and longer fiber links and we have been expanding that infrastructure for forty years. Cuba does not have those assets and, even if they were willing to invite foreign investment, the gap would continue to grow. (Furthermore, I wouldn't wish a foreign monopoly or duopoly on anyone).

Could 5G wireless help with Cuban fixed connectivity?

Medium-Earth orbit (MEO) satellite Internet service provider SES has been providing Cuban international transit for two years, so they have an established relationship with ETECSA. SES also provides 2, 3 and 4G mobile backhaul and managed mobile service in places like Chad, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea. (They also offer WiFi hotspots as a service).

SES is planning to offer the same services plus focused small-cell connectivity for 5G networks when their next-generation mPower satellites come online. SES has 20 MEO satellites in orbit today and in 2021 they will be adding seven next-generation mPower MEO satellites with over 4,000 shapeable and steerable beams that can be switched under program control, giving the constellation over 30,000 dynamically reconfigurable beams and over 10 Tbps capacity. The mPower satellites will work in conjunction with their current MEO satellites and their geostationary satellites.

Expected Starlink coverage, mid-2020
How about using low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites for 5G backhaul? Several companies are developing LEO Internet-service constellations, but SpaceX's Starlink constellation has a clear lead. Simulation of their announced plans shows that they will have coverage over Cuba by around the middle of next year and after that capacity will grow steadily as they launch new satellites. SpaceX plans to focus on the US market at first, but Elon Musk is an iconoclast who refused to serve Trump and I would encourage ETECSA to at least reach out to SpaceX.

So much for backhaul and system integration, how about connectivity to the thousands of local small cells that would be required for fixed broadband? That would require a lot of local fiber, which could be planned and installed by local people. Decentralization of the design and installation of the edge of a fixed 5G network would require more than capital and new technology -- it would require a political shift to a telecommunication policy focused on economic and social goals. Unfortunately, that seems less likely today than it seemed before the confiscation of SNET and other community networks.

Cuba is emphasizing and investing in mobile connectivity today and phones and tablets are fine for applications like content consumption, online shopping, social interaction, and Twitter-style politics, but businesses, schools, content creators, software developers, etc. need larger computers with fast, fixed connectivity. If Karl Marx were alive today, he might say mobile phones were the opiate of the people.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Questions raised by the takeover of SNET, Havana's community network

Last May, Cuba's Ministry of Communication (MINCOM) announced resolutions 98 and 99 limiting wireless transmission power and outdoor cables that made community networks like Havana's SNET, illegal. Since SNET was the world's largest community network that did not have Internet access, implementation of the resolutions was postponed for 60 days for negotiations between SNET administrators and MINCOM. The negotiations have ended with a decision to transfer SNET's services and content to ETECSA, Cuba's government-monopoly ISP, and to provide access through Cuba's nationwide chain of 611 Youth Computer Clubs (YCCs), as illustrated by the diagram shown here.

The new regulations authorize people to install WiFi equipment in their homes and businesses in order to access the YCCs, represented by the blue building, and public WiFi hotspots, represented by the sunny outdoor location. The diagram also shows cables running from the YCCs to larger buildings that may represent ETECSA data centers, wireless Internet points of presence and homes with DSL connectivity.

The government says SNET "will grow with the increased infrastructure” of the YCCs and ETECSA and claims that the intent of Resolutions 98 and 99 is to expand Internet access, but many in the SNET community fear losing access to and control of the assets they have created. You can see their point of view by searching Twitter for the hashtags #YoSoySnet and #FuerzaSnet. The protesters (and I) have many questions about the takeover, like:
  • While some testing has begun, this conversion will take time and resources -- why not allow parallel operation of SNET during the cutover to ETECSA/YCC?
  • How many homes are close enough to connect to current WiFi hotspots and YCCs?
  • Given the current planned infrastructure expansion, how long will it take to re-connect all current SNET users?
  • How many of the 611 YCCs have fiber links and what is the schedule for connecting the others?
  • Are rooftop and other outside antennas legal (MINCOM FAQ 18)?
  • Will wireless network installer be added to the list of self-employment occupations (MINCOM FAQ 19)?
  • What provisions are being made to extend connectivity to community network members in smaller cities, outside of Havana?
  • SNET offers many services in addition to gaming -- social networking (similar to Facebook), FTP (file transfer) for content sharing, live music streaming, software for download, and forums for developers and engineers, poetry, literature, comics, and sports. Will all of the current SNET services and content be supported?
  • Was the ETECSA/YCC migration anticipated and planned for during the drafting of resolutions 98 and 99?
  • Were SNET and YCC representatives consulted or involved in the drafting of resolutions 98 and 99?
  • There has been some dissension among SNET administrators in the past -- was this agreement approved unanimously?
  • In Spain, the UK, Argentina, and other nations, the decision was made to cooperate with and support community networks -- to treat them as cooperatively-owned Internet service providers. Did MINCOM consider that alternative and, if so, why was it rejected?
  • Some SNET members have been detained and threatened for voicing opposition to the takeover of the network -- are those reports accurate?
  • What will ETECSA/YCC charge for access to former SNET services?
  • Did MINCOM do a cost/benefit analysis of the conversion?
  • Will former SNET members be compensated in any way for their investment in equipment or time in creating intellectual capital in the form of content, software or communication infrastructure?
SNET was a Cuban success story -- a user-owned and operated cooperative that developed infrastructure, applications, and content. SNET and the other Cuban community networks may have connected as many homes as ETECSA's home DSL service, Nauta Hogar. Cuba's community networks also developed human capital -- experienced users and technicians who, in the long run, benefit both ETECSA and society.

Skeptics see this takeover as confiscation of community assets rather than an effort to better serve the public. Transparent answers to these and related questions could ease their concerns and I hope ETECSA and the JCCs are able to quickly deliver on their promises.

Monday, August 19, 2019

SNet: inicio o final?

This post was written by a friend who asked me to post it anonymously. (I am just a platform, like Facebook or 8chan :-).

El pasado 10 de agosto decenas de integrantes de SNet se reunieron en las afueras del Ministerio de Comunicaciones de Cuba para solicitar una vía legal que impida la desaparición de la red.

A finales de mayo, dos resoluciones ministeriales, las resoluciones No 98 y la 99 del Ministerio de las Comunicaciones, establecían un nuevo marco regulatorio del espacio radioeléctrico cubano, legalizaban las redes privadas, aunque los límites impuestos suponían la desaparición de SNet, la gran infraestructura habanera de acuerdo a la tipología empleada por sus administradores desde hace más de 10 años.

Sin embargo, la solución de las autoridades de comunicaciones y los reguladores fue la fusión con la infraestructura de los Joven Club de Computación, una organización adscrita a la Organización de los Jóvenes Comunistas, la rama juvenil del Partido Comunista de Cuba.

Con tal medida se disuelve la hasta ahora precaria autonomía de la red comunitaria habanera.

Muchos de los administradores quedaron conformes con las nuevas condiciones. Otros no. Estos últimos convocaron a otro encuentro frente a las instalaciones del Ministerio de Comunicaciones el pasado sábado 17 de agosto, la cual no se efectuó debido al despliegue en la zona y detenciones por parte de las autoridades policiales, de acuerdo a los propios activistas y medios alternativos de noticias.

El arreglo consiste, de acuerdo al sitio oficial Cubadebate, en una alianza técnica que permitirá trasferir todas las prestaciones de la red hacia estos centros estatales, utilizando la infraestructura propia de los Jóvenes Clubes y las de ETECSA.

De acuerdo a esta nota oficial:
Los integrantes de las redes privadas de La Habana entregaron más de 250 productos, entre juegos y servicios, desarrollados por ellos mismos a los Joven Club. El director general de Comunicaciones del Mincom asevera que los programadores podrán ser contratados como colaboradores y reconoce el talento de los jóvenes de las redes privadas. Joven Club puede contratar a estos muchachos como colaboradores o como trabajadores. Hay espacio para que puedan seguir desarrollándose y que el servicio continúe creciendo, así nos beneficiamos todos. Este proyecto es inclusivo, los juegos que hasta ahora se disfrutaban en un barrio de La Habana, por ejemplo, estarán a disposición de gamers de todo el país. Esta buena nueva despeja la mayor preocupación de las comunidades: quedarse desconectadas. Según Plá Feria, el MINCOM y los Joven Club robustecen su infraestructura para llegar a la mayor cantidad de lugares posibles. “Incluso, ya se emplean los equipos de quienes integran las redes privadas, gracias a su disposición de colaborar y extender sus prácticas aprovechando las potencialidades de “la computadora de la familia cubana.
El propio diario del Partido Comunista de Cuba, Granma, publica una nota sobre el asunto.
En estos momentos se realizan las pruebas de conexión y trabajos de acondicionamiento de la infraestructura tecnológica para la expansión de la wifi en algunas instalaciones de La Habana: Palacio Central de Computación, Cerro v Parque Manila, Playa IX, así como en el municipio de 10 de Octubre y en la urbanización de Alamar.

Las pruebas que se realizan en estos momentos son libres de costo, aunque en etapas siguientes las tarifas que se implementen serán más asequibles para las familias que se conecten a esta red, señaló Díaz Meriño.
Los servicios traspasados incluyen foros, las redes sociales, los juegos en línea, y otros. Ya ha comenzado en algunos “pilares” habaneros, como el del Cerro. Hasta el momento libres de costo; pero se anuncia que en un futuro se cobraran.

Con esta fusión los Jóvenes Clubes utilizaran la infraestructura desplegada de forma cooperativa por los administradores y usuarios de la red; los que a su vez tendrán que acceder a un mayor costo cuando se cobren los servicios.

Usuarios en la página de Cubadebate anotan estas preocupaciones entre los que están a favor y posen sus suspicacias (se ha respetado la ortografía original).

Maximino dijo:
Considero que el SNet independientemente que es una red privada a logrado muchas cosas hasta este momento que el estado no ha logrado, con pocos medios y de forma prácticamente gratuita, con gran cúmulo de servicios y una plataforma casi en la totalidad de la habana, en igual sentido lleva años posibilitando la diversión de los pequeños y mayores de la casa, me pregunto podrá los joven club integrar los usuarios q pretendan acceder a estos servicios, los costos del estado serán igual q los q impone etecsa q. Son casi imposible pagar? Esta red estará disponible para el 2030?
Daylin dijo:
Buenos días Maximino, lo que pretende Joven Club es integrar y aumentar los servicios para el disfrute de la familia. Los precios les aseguramos que seran módicos, por debajo del menor precio de las redes privadas. No es objetivo de Joven Club enriquecerse con estas acciones si no que haya una red segura, amplia y bajo las resoluciones. El precio sera colegiado entre Joven Club y las personas de las redes. Espero que se despejen sus dudas. Estamos para que los usuarios esten claros en todo lo que esta pasando.
mimismo dijo:
Hola, si los precios que se van a cobrar van a ser por debajo de los minimos que se cobran en las redes privadas, ¿Cuánto me cobrarán a mi que me conecto de gratis y siempre lo he hecho de gratis acá en Santa Clara?
Las redes comunitarias suelen constituirse y adaptarse de forma cooperativa y colaborativa a partir de la necesidad de los usuarios; algo que muchos no ven que suceda en los Jóvenes Club de Computación. Y no es tema de precios, se conoce que el acceso a la internet en Cuba es uno de los más onerosos en el mundo, aproximadamente 1 USD la hora de conexión en una zona WiFi. El tema que más suspicacias conlleva es la perdida de la autonomía de la red tal y como se ha desarrollado hasta hoy al ser fusionada con una organización estatal y política, con su propia agenda y prioridades. Incluso entre los estatutos actuales de la SNet está que no se permite hablar o debatir de política, religión, sexo o pornografía. Uno de los valores de estas redes cubanas es que no se hace hincapié en la posible rentabilidad financiera o promover una agenda política o religiosa.

Otros ven el futuro más optimista.

Shadow Walker Administrador de SNET (Street NETwork) CUBA - Perfil Oficial dijo:
Para gran parte de la comunidad de SNET a nivel nacional esta es una gran noticia aunque aun existe muchas dudas con respecto a los servicios. Dentro de estas y las mas importantes creo que ya debatidas por Doom y Julito personas muy queridas dentro de nuestro pequeño espacio digital es la de la conexion de usuarios los cuales viven muy distantes de los Joven Club, seria bueno que junto a estos sumen a todas las entidades que pertenecen al MINCOM para llegar a mas puntos de acceso dentro de la red nacional, ejemplos de estos, Joven Club ya incluidos, Etecsa, Correos de Cuba, Copextel, Radio Cuba, Radio Aficionados y demas entidades que cuenten en este momento con fibra óptica, también dentro de estos proyectos incluir he instruir a los gobiernos provinciales y municipales en cuanto a indicaciones para potenciar este tipo de conexion.
Pero tal y como la conocemos la SNet, como los dinosaurios, está condenada a desaparecer.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Cuba claims new regulations expand Internet access to homes and businesses, but here's the downside

The new regulations establish constraints on private network transmission power and cabling that, if enforced, would put Cuba's cooperatively-owned community networks out of business.

New Cuban regulations regarding private WiFi networks went into effect yesterday, and the New York Times and others proclaimed that "Cuba expands Internet access to private homes and businesses." Yes, Cubans can legally import and install WiFi routers in their homes, small cafes, B&Bs, etc., but these regulations will make little difference in Internet access.

For a start, very few homes and small businesses in Cuba have links to the Internet. Furthermore, my guess is that most people in homes that are connected to the Internet have already installed registered or unregistered WiFi routers. (Resolution No. 65/2003 dated June 5, 2003, states the procedure for registering a private data network).

If that is the case, what do these new regulations change?

They establish constraints on private network transmission power and cabling that, if enforced, would put Cuba's cooperatively-owned community networks, the largest of which is SNET in Havana, out of business. Even if they are not enforced today, they will hang like the sword of Damocles over their heads.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the Ministry of Communication has postponed enforcement for 60 days while they negotiate with SNET.

SNET will remain up during 60 days of negotiation (source).

Why would the Cuban government want to eliminate community networks? Do they see them as economic competitors to the government Internet service provider, ETECSA? Is ETECSA embarrassed by the fact that community networks connect so many people at so little cost? Do they fear clandestine, anti-government communication? I really don't know.

Guifi.net
If Cuba aspires to what the International Telecommunication Union refers to as fourth generation policy, which they characterize as "Integrated regulation – led by economic and social policy goals," they should regard the community networks as collaborators, not competitors. They should legitimitize SNET and the others, subsidize and work with them and provide them with Internet connectivity. SNET is the world's largest community network that is not connected to the Internet. Cuba should follow the lead set by Spain, where they have provided Internet connectivity to Guifi.net, the world's largest Internet-connected community network. Looking to the future, community networkers could play a valuable role in the installation of Cuba's 5G wireless infrastructure.

Cuba proudly proclaims (Trumpets) that they working toward the computerization of society. The outcome of these negotiations with SNET will shed light on the veracity of that claim.

Update 8/10/2019

The Cuban Ministry of Communications has refused to make an exception to their restrictions on wireless power and cabling and says SNET (and presumably other Cuban community networks) must shut down. Over one hundred people have gathered to protest the decision, allegedly without any call to do so.


This goes beyond the loss of a large community network -- it signifies Cuban government intransigence and belies the claim that they seek "computerization" of the society and a modern Internet.

I asked earlier, why they might want to eliminate rather than collaborate with community networks and suggested three possibilities:
  1. They see community networks as economic competitors to ETECSA, the state-monopoly ISP.
  2. They are embarrassed by the community networks' ability to connect so many people at so little cost.
  3. They fear anti-government communication.
Since they control the Internet and have seen the example of countries like China which use a ubiquitous Internet as a tool of control, I lean toward answers 1 and 2.

Update 8/11/2019

Ernesto De Armas <@RealErnesto95>, tweeted this positive update on the negotiations with MINCOM:
Hola a todos. Por esta vía transmito las buenas nuevas respecto a SNET, hoy en la tarde el grupo de trabajo SNET-MINCOM llegaron a favorables acuerdos mediante los cuales se determinó que Snet va a pasar todos sus servicios a través de los JCC, los JCC a su vez estarán conectados por fibra óptica entre ellos y los servidores que contienen nuestros servicios se montarán en ETECSA.

También se autorizó a que los nodos se conecten a los JCC utilizando equipos de alta potencia que son los necesarios para poder hacer esto, entre estos equipos se incluyen los equipos de Ubikiti, Nanostation, etc de alta potencia, no pondrán trabas para estas conexiones hacia los JCC. También hay otra buena noticia, los servicios de SNET pronto estarán disponibles ¡Para todo el país!

También advirtió el grupo de trabajo respetar estos acuerdos y no realizar nada que pueda atentar contra los mismos, nada de manifestarse públicamente (que a mí entender no hace ya ninguna falta, ya hemos logrado lo que queríamos) ni hacer declaraciones ofensivas contra MINCOM. En mi opinión hemos ganado está batalla por la subsistencia de #Snet, ahora debemos cooperar entre todos para hacer de este proyecto algo mejor, incluso, a lo que teníamos anteriormente. Estoy sumamente contento, alegre y agradecido de que nuestras instituciones estatales no hayan hecho oídos sordos a nuestra causa. Hoy comienza una nueva era en la Informatización de la sociedad cubana

TheCubanJedi <@darthdancuba> asked "Podrán abrir algo de sNet a internet??" and Ernesto replied "No. De momento nada de internet a través de Snet como siempre ha sido."

This is unofficial, but if it is accurate, SNET will be more widely available and faster, but not yet on the Internet.

Update 8/12/2019

Sad to say, the August 10th update was accurate. Ernesto De Armas <@RealErnesto95> has learned that MINCOM has ruled against SNET and the restrictions on transmission power and cabling will be upheld.

Needless to say, this is disappointing to the users of Cuban community networks and to the general population since it is an indication that ETECSA is determined to remain a monopoly.

A demonstration protesting the decision will be held next Saturday. Here is the announcement:


Here is Ernesto's English translation:

As we have the conviction that Revolution is to change everything that needs to be changed, on Saturday, August 17th, from 9am in the park located in front of the MINCOM, behind the bus station terminal, we make a call to all persons filiated to Snet from all the provinces of the country.

SNET, a community created more than 15 years ago, is being affected by the resolutions 98 and 99, we fight and demand to have an autonomous SNET that keeps the social project that we have had during all these years and that reaches so many homes and Cuban families.

To everyone who has the feeling for Snet, which has been created by everyone, this is the time to fight against resolutions 98 and 99 that are attacking the correct functioning of our community, created with everyone's sacrifice and with more than a decade of existence and acceptance by thousands of Cubans.

This is the time to make MINCOM understand that true democracy is conceived and defined by the people and that we must be heard because we are the youth of this country, the new generation and as the future that we are we demand to be considered.

We urge and summon every teenager, young, adult or old person, without any difference who feels identified with our cause, either has enjoyed or not with our network and our services to support us from every place and every spot because WE ALL MATTER, WE ARE ALL SNET. On this depends the end of the beginning of a new dream, a new path that we want to follow, so we can accomplish our acknowledgment before the authorities and a happy ending to keep ourselves being what we are. Snet...









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