For bringing Wi-Fi and broadband connectivity to Cuba, Google has set a deal. But some are already wondering how much information and access will freely flow to the Cuban people.
President Obama and his family were in Cuba. It’s the first time a U.S. president has visited Cuba in 88 years. In an interview with that was aired, the president addressed the fact that only 5% of homes in Cuba have access to the Internet, one of the lowest rates in the world.
“Google has a deal to start setting up more Wi-Ei access and broadband access on the island,” Obama said. “Change is going to happen here. I think [Cuban President] Raul Castro understands that.”
The White House said on its website that telecom providers will now be allowed to set up the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure, in Cuba to provide commercial telecommunications and Internet services.
Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group , said “This is a pretty big deal for the Cuban people, assuming that enough of them get to use it to make a difference. The government has a pretty solid record of doing whatever they can to stifle anything internal or external that contradicts their views. I would be surprised if the government gives their public the chance to find that information.”
Obama also noted in the interview that he has significant differences with the Cuban government on human rights and individual liberties. “There’s no doubt that the Cuban government is still a one-party state that is exerting control and is stifling dissent, “ the president said.
However, he also said he’s hoping that opening relations with Cuba, and enabling the Cuban people more access to receive and share information, will prompt more change in the country.
Brett Perlmutter, Google’s Cuba Lead, wrote in a blog post that the company is working with ETECSA, a government-owned Internet service provider in Cuba, to showcase some of its products, including Cardboard and Chromebooks.
Other U.S. companies, like Verizon and Sprint are also working to bring Internet service to the island nation.
In 2014, Google launched Chrome, Google Play for Free Apps, and Google Analytics in Cuba. When steps were taken to strengthen relations between Cuba and the U.S., the company launched Toolbar in Cuba early in 2015 to facilitate searches.