by Cuba Journal staff
In a recent visit to Cuba, Google executives probed the government’s willingness to allow the search engine giant to scale up island-wide WiFi broadband Internet access almost overnight. Such a service would allow Cubans with smart phones to enjoy open Internet access – and would propel Cuba’s extremely low Internet penetration rate of about 5% to much higher rates found in the Caribbean region. Some reports suggest Google is offering to provide the service for free.
“Cuba has a big opportunity to jump its infrastructure directly into mobile phones and skip cable as African countries are doing,” Perlmutter told the digital magazine On Cuba during the visit. Many other companies interested in offering their services or products to the island nation attended the visit.
Historically, the Cuban government has tightly restricted Internet access on par with restrictions found in North Korea and Iran. Alan Gross, a US citizen and employee of the US Agency for International Development, was imprisoned in Cuba for distributing equipment intended to get Jewish Cubans online. Gross was released from prison in December after serving five years of a 15-year sentence. His release was part of the effort to normalize Cuba’s relations with the US.
Skipping cumbersome Internet cable installation and moving directly to wireless is another example of how Cuba may be the first country whose economic development is impacted directly by web technology.