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HAVANA, July 29th (AFP) – All Cubans can now have Wi-Fi in their homes, as the island’s government extends…

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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.

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HAVANA, Nov 24th (EFE) The Spanish company Telefonica has offered to the Cuban Government to link the island to its network of submarine cables to improve Internet access in the country, one of the most disconnected in the world.

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HAVANA, Nov. 17 (EFE) Google works on a submarine cable to improve Internet in Cuba, one of the most disconnected countries in the world, where the American company expects to do “much more” in the future, said Google Cuba’s Marketing Manager, Susanna Kohly Jacobson , reported the news agency EFE.
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 Bingo! I’ll Give the Cubans InternetHAVANA, Feb 6th  The news of a U.S. “internet task force” to increase internet access in Cuba surely wins the prize for this year’s “interference in a sovereign nation’s internal affairs” category.

Following up on the fake news of “sonic attacks,” Read more

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The Internet stations are biodegradable cubes, with fake grass flooring and solar panels.

HAVANA, Sept. 5th (ClarinCuba‘s belated embrace of the Internet has people packing into places like the Plaza de la Revolución and the colonial fort Castillito, two of the island’s just 114 public WiFi hotspots.

Overall, the number of Cubans who regularly access the Web is still relatively small. Read more

havana-live-Kcho-googleHAVANA, 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-live-internetHAVANA, Feb. 1th (AAP) Cuba is set to launch a broadband pilot project in Havana aimed at eventually bringing home access to one of the world’s least connected nations.

State telecommunications company ETECSA said on Sunday it would allow Cubans in Old Havana, the colonial centre that is one of the island’s main tourist attractions, to order service through fibre optic connections operated with Chinese telecom operator Huawei.

Odalys Rodrguez del Toro, ETECSA director for Havana, told state media the government would also begin allowing cafes, bars and restaurants to begin ordering broadband service.

Del Toro offered no timeline for the pilot project or rollout of broader access and said prices would be announced in the future.

Still, any fibre-optic home connections would be an important milestone in Cuba, where home broadband is legal only for diplomats and employees of foreign companies who pay hundreds of dollars a month for links that are a fraction of the average speed in other countries.

Some Cuban citizens have dial-up home service or restricted mobile phone connections that allow access only to state-run email.

General public access to broadband internet began only last year, with the opening of dozens of public WiFi spots that cost $2 an hour. That is about a tenth of the average monthly salary in Cuba.

Del Toro said ETECSA would open 30 more WiFi spots in Havana alone in 2016, which by itself would double the number of access points in Cuba. She did not say how many more were planned for other cities.

How media smugglers get Taylor Swift, Game of Thrones, and the New York Times to Cubans every week

HAVANA, Sept. 22  In Cuba there is barely any internet. Anything but the state-run TV channels is prohibited. Publications are limited to the state-approved newspapers and magazines. This is the law. But, in typical Cuban fashion, the law doesn’t stop a vast underground system of entertainment and news media distributors and consumers.

“El Paquete Semanal” (The Weekly Package) is a weekly trove of digital content—everything from American movies to PDFs of Spanish newspapers—that is gathered, organized and transferred by a human web of runners and dealers to the entire country. It is a prodigious and profitable operation.

I went behind the scenes in Havana to film how the Paquete works. Check out the video above to see how Cubans bypass censorship to access the media we take for granted.Paquete.0There are two Paquete king pins in Havana: Dany and Ali. These two compete to develop the best collection of weekly digital content and in the fastest turnaround time possible for their subscribers. It’s a competitive market playing out in the shadows of a tightly controlled communist economy.

Paquete subscribers pay between $1-$3 per week to receive the collection of media. It’s either delivered to their home or transferred at a pick up station, usually in the back of a cell phone repair shop, a natural cover for this type of operation.

Dany relies on data traffickers to deliver the files, but said he didn’t know how those sources obtained the content in the first place. I gathered that most of it is being digitized via illegal satellites that are hidden in water tanks on rooftops.
It’s unclear how they get a hold of the content sourced from the internet (digital news publications, YouTube videos, and pirated movies, for example).

Only 5 percent of Cubans can access the uncensored world wide web, and when they do, the connection is horrendously slow. It’s not the type of connection that would support downloading hundreds of gigs of content every week. Instead, some speculate that content is physically brought onto the island by incomers from Miami.Gifmap_final.0

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I sat down with Dany in his pink-walled apartment in Havana. While I expected a mob-like character to be at the root of this extensive black market of pirated media, I found a 26 year-old guy who looked more like a stoned surf bum than the conductor of a giant black market operation.1151hi-res.0

Dany’s office shows off a lot more brawn than he does. It’s a simple room with two gigantic computers, their innards visible, tricked out lights arbitrarily flickering.
Hard drives are littered around the room, stacked and labeled. Two large screens are full of Windows file directories, and in the corner of one of the screens is a live feed from Telemundo, a popular Spanish-language station, with the words “Grabando” (recording) in the corner.1113hi-res.0

“Everybody has their responsibility,” Dany told me. “Everyone gathers a certain type of content and they bring it to me. I organize it, edit it, and get it ready for distribution. And then we send it through our messengers.”

This is hard work. “A lot of the time is spent finding and embedding subtitles” he laments. Much of the content is pirated from American TV and movies. He and his team have scour the internet for any existing subtitle files.1096hi-res.0

Computer

The government hasn’t tried to stamp out the Paquete, and Dany works to keep it that way. “We don’t put anything in that is anti-revolutionary, subversive, obscene, or pornographic. We want it to stay about entertainment and education,” he says, and I catch a glimpse of the shrewd business behind the baby face and board shorts.

It might as well be Netflix
A look into an edition of the Paquete reveals a vast array of content ranging from movies that are in US theaters right now to iPhone applications. Havana-based artist Junior showed me around.
He’s a pensive and gentle 34-year-old who is remarkably talented, judging by the stunning art pieces that hang from the wall. Junior paints and tattoos full time but he used to be a Paquete dealer.
He’s now just a consumer. He takes me through the 934GB of data he has recently transferred from his provider.1500hi-res.0

I’m immediately struck by how polished the Paquete system is. As Junior files through the meticulously organized files, I realize it mirrors the consumption of a typical internet user. He opens the movie folder, and we browse through dozens of movies, many still in US theaters. All of them come in HD and with subtitles and poster art as the thumbnail of the file.

The videos are high quality with accurate subtitles. I have to remind myself that we are not browsing Netflix, instead we are looking at an offline computer that is displaying content that has physically traveled to get here. The methods couldn’t be more different but the result is strangely similar.

He moves onto TV shows. “So do you think they have—” I start but am interrupted “they have everything” Junior says emphatically. Sure enough the show I was thinking of, Suits, was there, with the latest episodes ready to watch.El_Paquete.00_03_03_22.Still002.0

Suits

We continue to browse and look into some of the more boring but most interesting part of the Paquete: There are folders dedicated to antivirus software that can be updated weekly to the latest versions.
“But there’s no internet, so there can’t be viruses” I say. “Most of this stuff has touched the internet in some way. This software protects against anything that has snuck its way on into the content.”

Junior clicks over to the “Apps” folder and shows me a smorgasbord of iOS and Android apps. Many are gaming apps with updates that can be loaded in every week.
But there is another called “A la mesa” a Yelp-type app that helps connect clients to restaurants in Cuba using maps, reviews, and in-app menus. Then there’s the PDF folder which holds newspapers, magazines, and screenshot material from dozens of online publications, everything from tech news to sports. It’s the internet in a box.

In addition to the subscription fees, revenue for the Paquete comes from a classifieds section called “Revolico.” Within the Paquete, you click a file that opens Revolico in your browser. But it’s an offline version that runs from a file structure on your local computer. There, you can click around as if you were browsing craigslist, looking and thousands of listings of everything from house rentals to big screen TVs to car tires.

Sellers pay to list their items and you can get a premium listing if you pay more. Revolico is the cash cow of the Paquete. It also happens to be one of the first semblances of an advertising market for Cubans who have lived in a world of central planning and price control.El_Paquete.00_03_22_00.Still003.0

The depth and breadth of the Paquete is astounding, so much so that I, an American who lives and works on the uncensored internet, feel a twinge of envy that I don’t have the Paquete delivered to my house every week for $2.

When I asked Dany if he is afraid that the internet will wipe out his operation, without missing a beat, he replied, “Nah. We offer a product that is like one giant webpage where you can see all the content you want for a very low price. The internet might take over some clients, but we offer something different and very effective.”

“Speed is key to beating the competition,” Dany said. When asked how quickly he can get a movie or TV show after it airs in the US he says “the next day.” Last year, Dany started sending a hard drive on a plane to the far corners of the island.

After spending a week in Cuba, it was refreshing to talk to someone with the appetite to grow an enterprise. Most people I spoke to in Cuba work for the state and have zero incentive to deliver anything above the bare minimum. They get paid the same either way. Even the private restaurants lack the fervor of a competitive business since the economic environment they work in is still completely controlled even if they themselves are private.

But in Dany’s office, I felt the thrill of cunning innovation and strategy at work. I got the sense that something big is happening. And indeed, I wasn’t just standing in some dingy apartment, but rather what may be largest media distribution company in the history of Cuba.

http://www.vox.com/2015/9/21/9352095/netflix-cuba-paquete-internet