Cuba: No Country for Slow DSL Home Internet Plans
Written by Larry Press
Two years ago, leakers suggested that Cuba might build its home internet
plan on super-slow DSL connections. They were wrong, suggests Larry
aNewDomain –There will be no Cuban home Internet plan.
That's my conclusion after having followed Cuban Internet developments
for more than two years now. Back in 2015, leakers provided details
around the island nation's so-called home-connectivity plan, which
called for obsolete DSL technology.
Now that the Havana Internet trial is a wrap, though, it's clear that
won't happen. Here's why I say so.
Back in 2015, Cuba's state-owned communications provider, ETESCA, denied
there was anything real about a slide deck that supposedly detailed an
upcoming home Internet plan.
That presentation included a definition of broadband as "at least 256
kb/s" and a stated goal to bring that "broadband"Internet connectivity
to half the homes on the island by 2020.
Slow DSL can hardly be called broadband, though. And in 2020 it will be
an even bigger joke.
The free home-connectivity trial that concluded recently in Havana used
the DSL technology as described in the leaked plan that ETESCA denied,
but I don't think that fact accounts for much at all.
According to a source close to the effort, 700 of the 2,000 Havana homes
that participated in the Old Havana trial agreed to pay to continue
service. A dozen homes have already been connected in Bayamo, Cuba, he
added. The expectation is that the same will happen in the Cuban cities
of Santa Clara and Las Tunas, too.
But think about it. If this home connectivity roll-out has been in the
works since 2015, as the leaked slides suggested, then why is it going
so slowly? Why aren't other parts of Havana open?
And why isn't Cuba doing large-scale trials in Bayamo, Santa Clara and
Clearly, something else is up.
What makes sense
The quality of a DSL connection is a function of the length and
condition of the telephone wire running between a home and the central
office serving it. If it had really planned to bring DSL to many Cuban
homes, ETESCA would have understood the necessity of investing heavily
in wiring as well as central office equipment.
My guess is that the Havana trial and the installations in Bayamo, Santa
Clara and Las Tunas are not part of a national home-connectivity plan,
but ends in themselves — interim measures aimed at bringing slow DSL
connectivity to small businesses and self-employed people in the most
affluent parts of selected cities.
That makes more sense to me than a plan to spend a lot of money
upgrading copper telephone wires and central office equipment in order
to be able to offer obsolete connectivity to 50 percent of Cuban homes
The wisest thing Cuba could do, after all, is leapfrog today's
technology and center on some next generation tech instead.
The real connectivity plan for Cuba …
This is all speculation, but my hope is that Cuba regards efforts like
home DSL, WiFi hotspots, Street Nets and El Paquete as the temporary
stopgap measures they are.
I hope Cuba wants to start off things right and wait, if it must, for
next-generation tech. I believe it will, too.
And if this is the case, we are likely to see progress as soon as next
year, when Raúl Castro steps down.
Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, who is expected by many to succeed him as
Cuban president, has long acknowledged the inevitability of the Internet.
"Today, news from all sides, good and bad, manipulated and true, or
half-true, circulates on networks … reaches people … people hear it,"
Bermúdez said back in 2013, adding that "the worst thing, then, is silence."
He also has called the Internet a social and economic necessity, saying
it is government's responsibility to providie affordable connectivity to
citizens. The caveat: Government must be vigilant in assuring citizens
use the Internet legally.
In 1997, the Cuban government decided that the political risk posed by
the Internet outweighed its potential benefit and decided to suppress
it. At the same time, China opted for a ubiqutius, modern Internet —
understanding they could use it as a tool for propaganda and
surveillance. It sounds to me like Díaz-Canel has endorsed the Chinese
model and will push for next-generation technology with propaganda and
(Again, my Spanish is not so great and I may have mischaracterized
Díaz-Canel's statements. I would welcome other's reactions to the clip
shown above or other statements he has made).
If Cuba does decide to install next-generation technology, can they
I can't be certain, but I doubt that they have the expertise or the
money to quickly deploy a next-generation Internet.
Cuba has many information technologists who have become proficient at
improvisation and working with outdated technology. I expect that they
can quickly learn to work with modern technology if it is available.
Funding is tougher.
Cuba is a green field. And a timely move to modern infrastructure will
require their being open to foreign investment and partnership, which
may be a hard sell for whoever replaces Castro.
The nation needs to adopt next-generation regulation and infrastructure
ownership policy if it is to obtain next-generation technology. That
will not be easy, but there are cultural and historical reasons to
believe that Cuba may be able to do so.
Potential Cuban partners
As a customer of an Internet service provider (ISP) that has a monopoly
in my neighborhood, I fully understand the pitfalls of the wrong partner
and would be cautious in dealing with large ISPs. I don't know who the
likely vendors will be, but Google has the inside track. (Huawei is well
established in Cuba, but is more narrowly focused than Google).
In 2015, Google chief Eric Schmidt traveled to Cuba with Brett
Perlmutter, who now is Google's Cuba Strategy tsar.
Aside from relationship building, progress seems slow. Google's most
technically significant achievement in Cuba so far, actually, was to
secure permission to install caching servers on the island.
However, Google's tribute to Cuban arts and culture, including the
following Google 360 VR video on Jose Marti, is a more important
political and cultural contribution. Watch it below.
Google has much to offer Cuba. It's got experience with fiber
infrastructure in developed and developing nations, content development
and future technologies.
More importantly, Google can profit by simply having more users in Cuba
without having to sell them service or equipment. It profits not by
competiting with ETESCA, but by collaborating with it.
Cuba should consider other partners, but Google is a particularly good
choice for Google's first and best one.
ETESCA's Perlmutter sounded enthusiastic about the idea. In a recent
interview about a potential Google partnership, he said: "We'd love to
do that. We've put everything on the table and I'm really optimistic
about this because everything is still on the table. We're holding talks
and discussing about all these matters.
"ETECSA has a plan and our goal is to work hand in hand with them and
assist them with the vast experience we have piled up around the globe
doing this same thing," Perlmutter added.
Now does that sound to you like Cuba is going to bring 256 kb/s DSL to
I didn't think so.
For aNewDomain, I'm Larry Press.
Source: Cuba: No Country for DSL-Based Home Internet Hookups -