HAVANA, March 27th (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s Google plans to announce a memorandum of understanding with Cuban telecoms monopoly ETECSA on Thursday to explore ways of improving connectivity on the Communist-run island, a person familiar with matter told Reuters.
HAVANA, Sept. 28th (Sputnik) Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel visited Google’s New York office, where he met with the company’s top executives. The meeting, which has been highlighted by the Cuban state newspaper Granma, raised hopes of the acceleration of Internet development on the island.
HAVANA,march 31th An average of 200,000 people a day access the Internet from Cuba’s 85 public Wi-Fi hotspots, executives of state telecom monopoly Etecsa said.
The figure is up from 150,000 users a day in December.
Jorge Luis Legra, Etecsa’s director for strategic programs, said on state television that the company has already created a score of new hotspots since Jan. 1 and plans to establish at least 60 more over the course of this year. Etecsa will also open 100 new Internet cafes in 2016, he said.
The Wi-Fi hotspots are one of Etecsa’s most popular programs to increasing connectivity in Cuba, which has one of the world’s lowest levels of Internet penetration.
Legra said the results of a pilot program to provide residential Internet service in Havana remain inconclusive, adding that offering home access to the Web would require a major investment.
Currently, the Cuban government limits home access to the Internet to members of a handful of professions, including medicine, journalism and academia. Etecsa was operating 345 Internet cafes nationwide – equipped with 11,187 computers – as of the end of last year, Legra said.
Google recently opened its first technology center in Cuba in the Havana studio of artist Alexis Leyva, better known as Kcho, offering no-cost access to the Internet at much faster speeds than those normally available on the island.
The Google + Kcho.Mor center will give Cubans a chance to familiarize themselves with the latest generation of gadgets from the U.S. technology giant, such as the cardboard virtual reality goggles for use with mobile devices Etecsa is providing the Internet connection, though at much faster speeds than those available at its public Wi-Fi hotspots.
HAVANA, march 24th Google has hatched a game-changing plan to speed up internet service across Cuba. The Silicon Valley giant has set up an online technology center in Cuban artist Kcho’s studio in Havana, where it will offer free internet service at speeds nearly 70 times faster than the service now available to the Cuban public.
It seems Google is hopeful that such a center will convince Cubans that they actually can access high-speed Internet, but the government is restricting their access. According to Associated Press, Google has built a studio equipped with dozens of laptops, cellphones, and virtual-reality goggles. The connection at the Kcho studio is provided by Cuba’s state-run telecommunications company over a new fiber-optic connection.
As many as 40 people can use the internet service at a time at the studio, which will be open five days a week, from 7 am to midnight.
“Yes, Google will offer much faster internet access, but in terms of expanding access, the impact of the current arrangement will be limited to several dozen people at one time — possibly a few hundred in a day,” he said.
In fact, it is this studio where Cuba’s first Wi-Fi hotspot was unveiled. The Cuban government has since set up several Wi-Fi hotspots across the country, particularly in capital Havana. Yet, Cuba still has one of the world’s lowest rates of internet penetration.
“The hub at the artist studio is a marker that Google has put down that signals the company’s ability to help modernize Cuba’s internet. “But it also shows the company’s willingness to do so within the parameters established by the Cuban government.”
The artist launched the Wi-Fi hotspot after getting permission from ETECSA. Over the past one year, the telecom firm has rolled out nearly 50 Wi-Fi hotspots across the country.
HAVANA, July 7 Huddled around a laptop at the bottom of a stairwell in Havana, a group of three teenage boys banter as they skip between video clips and music. A fourth arrives with some ice cream, which completes a scene reminiscent of teenagers killing time on YouTube. They play an amateur music video in which the singer, looking for a laugh, periodically bangs his head against the wall. Then Beyoncé. Chris Brown.
But this being Cuba—where the Internet is, for the most part, only available at some professional jobs, in foreigners’ homes, and in expensive hotels—this isn’t YouTube.
What looks like a few teenagers surfing the web is actually a small part of an only-in-Cuba business that gives locals access to content from the Internet, offline, thanks to an army of human middlemen and thousands of flash drives.
I pass my own small drive to the boy who owns the computer, and he asks me what I want. He scrolls through the little blue files on his desktop, which have labels like “movies,” “music,” “videos from Cuba,” “applications,” and “video games.” After I ask for videos from Cuban artists, he plugs my drive into his computer and asks me to come back in 10 minutes.
There are similar booths that sell El Paquete Semanal (“the packet of the week”) across Havana. Some are run casually, like this one. Others are part of more formal businesses, with signage and separate store space, that also offer services like printing or software updates.
But everyone, from the young waiters at restaurants to the lawyer who rents me his home, seems to have a source for El Paquete, their link to a connected world that would be taken for granted in most modern countries. A retired woman who plugs her flash drive into her television recommends that I watchMr. and Mrs. Smith.
My taxi driver plays local music videos from a portable player mounted on his dashboard. And when I meet with the founder of a company that functions like a Yelp for Cuba, he peppers his stories with Game of Thronesreferences. All of them are getting access to this media either by purchasing content from an El Paquete vendor, or by copying from the computer of a friend who has purchased it.
In a country where the government, as per the constitution, owns all media, El Paquete allows Cuban people to access content that would never be found on official media outlets, even if it’s nothing more subversive than the latest episode of House of Cards.
It is not a static library of files, but a weekly updated resource that includes some of the same living resources that you might find on the Internet.
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