Google, Cuba sign al­low­ing faster ac­cess to com­pany’s data

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

Google and the Cuban gov­ern­ment signed a deal Mon­day al­low­ing the in­ter­net gi­ant to pro­vide faster ac­cess to its data by in­stalling servers on the is­land that will store much of the com­pany’s most pop­u­lar con­tent.

Stor­ing Google data in Cuba elim­i­nates the long dis­tances that sig­nals must travel from the is­land through Venezuela to the near­est Google server. More than a half cen­tury af­ter cut­ting vir­tu­ally all eco­nomic ties with Cuba, the US has no di­rect data link to the is­land. The deal re­moves one of the many ob­sta­cles to a nor­mal in­ter­net in Cuba, which suf­fers from some of the world’s most lim­ited and ex­pen­sive ac­cess. Home con­nec­tions re­main il­le­gal for most Cubans and the gov­ern­ment charges the equiv­a­lent of a month’s av­er­age salary for 10 hours of ac­cess to pub­lic WiFi spots with speeds fre­quently too slow to down­load files or watch streaming video.

No ef­fect on pub­lic ac­cess to the in­ter­net

The agree­ment does not af­fect Cuba’s an­ti­quated com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­fra­struc­ture or broaden pub­lic ac­cess to the in­ter­net, but it could make Google web­sites like YouTube or Gmail up to 10 times faster for users in­side Cuba. Con­tent hosted by other com­pa­nies will not be af­fected.

Nei­ther Google chair­man Eric Sch­midt nor Cuban of­fi­cials spoke to the press af­ter the sign­ing cer­e­mony in Ha­vana.

In a blog post, Mar­ian Croak, Google’s vice pres­i­dent for ac­cess strat­egy and emerg­ing mar­kets, and Brett Perl­mut­ter, head of strat­egy and op­er­a­tions for Google Cuba and the lead ne­go­tia­tor of the deal, said, “Cubans who al­ready have ac­cess to the in­ter­net and want to use our ser­vices can ex­pect to see an im­prove­ment.”

Cuban of­fi­cials ap­pear to be ac­cel­er­at­ing their ap­provals of deals with US com­pa­nies in an at­tempt to build mo­men­tum be­hind US-Cuba nor­mal­iza­tion be­fore Pres­i­den­t­elect Don­ald Trump takes of­fice next month. The Google pact was an­nounced less than a week af­ter Cuba gave three US cruise com­pa­nies per­mis­sion to be­gin sail­ing to the is­land next year. Of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the ne­go­ti­a­tions say other deals, in­clud­ing one with Gen­eral Elec­tric, are in the works.

The US and Cuba have struck a se­ries of bi­lat­eral deals on is­sues rang­ing from environmental pro­tec­tion to di­rect mail since the dec­la­ra­tion of de­tente on Dec. 17, 2014, but busi­ness ties have failed to keep pace. The Cuban gov­ern­ment has blamed the US trade em­bargo on Cuba. Many US busi­nesses say Cuba has been mov­ing on most pro­pos­als so slowly that some sus­pect the gov­ern­ment has been de­lib­er­ately lim­it­ing the de­vel­op­ment of eco­nomic ties.

The Google pro­gram could pro­vide am­mu­ni­tion for US ad­vo­cates of closer ties with Cuba. Both pro-de­tente forces and those ar­gu­ing for a hard line on Pres­i­dent Raul Cas­tro’s sin­gle-party gov­ern­ment have been push­ing for Cubans to have bet­ter ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion.

If the Google deal proves to truly im­prove in­ter­net ac­cess for a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of Cubans, it ties in­for­ma­tion ac­cess to US-Cuban de­tente in a way that could prove po­lit­i­cally dif­fi­cult to undo for an­tiCas­tro of­fi­cials in the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. —AP

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