Google Fiber in Cuba? Here’s How It Might Look

Oct. 16, 2015 - Havana, Cuba - A young woman surfs the Internet at a public wifi spot in the district of Marianao in Havana, Cuba, 16 October 2015. Public wifi spots ensure enthusiasm amongst young people in Havana. With limited offerings, the Castros want to cautiously lead the previously isolated island into the online world. Photo: ISAAC RISCO/dpa (Credit Image: © Isaac Risco/DPA via ZUMA Press)

HAVANA, Dec. 5 The Obama administration is pushing Google and other US firms to “secure agreements to operate in Cuba” before Donald Trump takes office in January, according to the The Wall Street Journal and ElNuevo Herald.

What could the Google deal in Cuba be?

Well, imagine a joint project between Google and ETESCA, Cuba’s government-owned telecom provider. This would be good for both Google and Cuba, no question.

And it would be relatively simple to put together, given what we already know.

Google, which has considerable fiber installation experience with Google Fiber in the US and its Project Link in Africa, could, for instance, embark on a pilot experiment with ETESCA.

This would be the first step in leapfrogging Havana’s connectivity infrastructure.

Now, according to a source close to ETESCA, a fiber pilot will begin in Havana as early as this week.

Google could easily piggyback on this, installing a Google Fiber as it did in Accra and Kampala in Africa but leaving it up to ETECSA to connect premises using a mix of fiber, coaxial cable and wireless technology.

If that were to happen, Havana would leapfrog from being one of the worst connected capital cities in the world to one of the best connected ones, a model of next-generation technology.

A win-win-win for Google, Cuba and President Obama’s legacy … 

A split of duties would have Google supplying expertise and capital. ETECSA could supply labor, and deal with the Cuban and Havana bureaucracies as necessary.

It’s easy to see what Google would get out of the arrangement.

For one thing, Google would get terrific publicity.

Even better, it would get a a seat at the table as Cuba launches infrastructure discussions on setting up data centers, video production facilities and setting up ad networks. (Take that, Facebook.)

Havana could also serve as a model and reference-sell for cooperation between Google and other cities. (Take that Comcast and AT&T).

There might even be some revenue sharing, with ETECSA paying Google as the ISPs do in Africa.

Most of all, it would be a win for the US administration and President Obama’s legacy.

What would a Google Fiber deal in Havana look like? 

Google Fiber Cuba ETESCAWe already know, for one thing, that Havana is getting fiber, and soon. ETESCA in July announced Cuba would be running a fiber trial in parts of Old Havana. ETESCA never specified whether this project would entail fiber to the premises or neighborhood.

We also know that Google Fiber has changed a lot since it started as a demonstration project in Kansas City. Google these days is approaching it as a real, profit-making business.

Two months ago, though, Google Fiber execs announced the company was going to “pause operations and offices” except in cities in which they had been conducting exploratory discussions. Havana, reportedly, is one of those cities.

Meanwhile, Google’s Project Link has installed wholesale fiber backbones in two African capitals, which provides a great model of how a Google-ETESCA fiber project could work in Cuba. As I’ve speculated, Google could duplicate that effort to do the same in Havana, only in conjunction with ETESCA.

Written by
Larry Press