Monday, June 27, 2011

The Internet route from Cuba to Google

The Internet is, as its name implies, a network of networks. A data packet is sent from a particular computer on one network across the Internet to the receiving computer on another network. As the packet moves from network to network, it goes through special purpose computers called routers.

Traceroute is a simple utility program that comes with every Mac or Windows computer. It shows the path a packet takes -- the list of routers that handle it -- as it hops from network to network.

A colleague in Cuba recently ran Traceroute to see the path between his computer, which was on a dial-up link, to Google in California. He saw that the packet hopped through 20 routers:
These four-number addresses, called Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, identify each router on the path between Cuba and Google, and they reveal something of the network structure.

The prefix of the first four hops (192.168) indicates that they are within the ISP's local area network. The next three are on the network of ETECSA, the Cuban telecommunication monopoly. I saw that by querying the "whois" database that shows that the IP addresses that begin "200.0" have been allocated to:

responsible: Rafael López Guerra
address: Ave. Independencia y 19 Mayo, s/n,
address: 10600 - La Habana - CH
country: CU
phone: +53 7 574242
e-mail: nap@ETECSA.CU
The eighth hop is over a satellite link from the router at the edge of the Cuban network to the network of Newcome International in Miami. I know it is a satellite link because Traceroute reported that the time to reach from Cuba to the 8th router was much longer than from Cuba to the 7th router. Newcome routes packets across their network from Miami to Newark New Jersey and eventually to Google.

No secrets are revealed here -- this sort of information is widely available -- but it would be interesting to see how routes and timing (which we looked at in a previous post) change when the undersea cable is operational. If you are in Cuba and would like to share this sort of route and timing data, let me know.


  1. I have suspected Google's motives ever since nearly two dozen users of their geotagging photo site Panoramio were eliminated in 2009 for posting photos and comments critical of the Cuban situation. Panoramio is the only site where photos can be posted on Google Earth. One particular user was a swiss artist going by, who had documented every building facade in the streets of Galiano and Monte, among others. His thousands of photos and those of the other users were removed without explanation. At the time, the head of Panoramio was Eduardo Manchón and he was personally involved in the removals. Manchón subsequently left Google and went on to join Ubaldo Huerta, a Cuban engineer, in a new venture called Askaro. All the above suggests a Google-Cuba relationship.

  2. Eight is enough wrote:

    > All the above suggests a Google-Cuba relationship.

    It sounds as though those were removed at the request of the Cuban government, and gets at the relationship between governments and Internet services in general. Google (and Facebook, Yahoo, etc.) has been in conflict with other governments. They selectively blurred Street View images in Germany, and are now evidently giving up (,2817,2383363,00.asp). Google also had a conflict with China and moved their search operation to Hong Kong. The French have banned Nazi memorabilia. Yahoo has given names to the Chinese government. Etc.

    This comment also got me thinking of a drive I took years ago to the Bay of Pigs -- I checked and there are some photos of the museum there.

    But, back to the Internet -- it would be great if people found/posted Internet-related pictures from Cuba. If you worry about posting them yourself, send them to me.


    PS -- was there discussion in the press when those photos were deleted?

  3. Google publishes information on government requests to remove content or divulge identity of users on their Transparency Report site:

    It turns out that content removal requests are common, and Google complies fully or in part with many of them:


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