Saturday, May 30, 2009

Cuba galled that Microsoft cut instant messaging

Posted on Saturday, 05.30.09
Cuba galled that Microsoft cut instant messaging
Microsoft's sudden move to block instant messenger service after years
of use in Cuba has island officials in an uproar.
Associated Press

HAVANA -- Cuba criticized Microsoft on Friday for blocking its Messenger
instant messaging service on the island and in other countries under
U.S. sanctions, calling it yet another example of Washington's ''harsh''
treatment of Havana.

The technology giant recently announced it was disabling the program's
availability in Cuba, Syria, Iran, Sudan and North Korea to come into
compliance with a U.S. ban on transfer of licensed software to embargoed


The move 'is just the latest turn of the screw in the United States'
technological blockade against the island,'' a technology writer said in
an article published by state youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde.

He called the ban on transfer of technology ''a truly harsh violation''
of Cuba's rights.

Messenger has been used on the island for a decade without Microsoft
interference, and it was not clear why the Redmond, Wash.-based company
is acting now.

''Microsoft is one of several major internet companies that have taken
steps aimed at meeting their obligations to not do business with markets
on the U.S. sanctions list,'' said Dharmesh Mehta, director of Windows
Live Product Management at the company.

''Microsoft supports efforts to ensure that the Internet remains a
platform for open, diverse and unimpeded content and commerce,'' Mehta
said in a statement e-mailed to the Associated Press.

''Governments should exercise restraint in regulating the Internet and
should actively coordinate with other governments to minimize
contradictory or confusing standards,'' Mehta wrote.


Internet communications service Skype currently works in Cuba, but the
government evidently has periodically blocked other similar services in
the past -- sometimes including Messenger.

Microsoft's move comes six weeks after the Obama administration
announced it was lifting some U.S. restrictions on telecommunications
with Cuba in an effort toward easing the island's isolation. It is
unclear if those changes will affect the ban on export of licensed software.

Cuba has been criticized for its own restrictions on Internet technology.

Although many islanders have access to e-mail through schools,
workplaces and post offices, government restrictions keep most citizens
from unfettered access to the Web.


Officials say the island does not have enough bandwidth to allow
universal access.

Cuba's Internet connection comes via satellite from faraway countries
such as Italy and Canada, and Havana complains that the U.S. embargo
prevents it from obtaining better service through underwater cable.

The government uses filters on the islandwide intranet to block pages
that contain pornography or are considered a threat to national
security, including some sites run by anti-communist exiles, the U.S.
government's Radio Marti and popular Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez's
``Generation Y.''

Despite restrictions on U.S. licensed software, the Cuban government
employs Windows operating systems and other Microsoft programs on many
of its computers. But it is working toward replacing them with
open-source programs.

Cuba galled that Microsoft cut instant messaging - Miami-Dade - (30 May 2009)

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