Google opened its new data center in Cuba on Wednesday, becoming the first foreign Internet company to launch a service in one of the world’s most cut-off countries. Google’s move raises hope that the country is welcoming modernization and greater access to information.
Google servers to help Cuba connect to the world
Since Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced the re-opening of diplomatic relations in 2014, Google has been working to make its services available in the country. Now the company’s global network of caching servers, called GGC nodes, will make it easier for the island country to access Google’s services. It must be noted that the search giant already had a headstart in the country, as in 2014 it made Chrome available in Cuba, notes Engadget.
Google’s servers operate by storing popular content like a popular YouTube video on a local server. Prior to this, the Internet content had to travel through a submarine cable from Venezuela to allow the Cuban people to access it, notes The Telegraph. This not only made it difficult for residents to access information but also slows down the connection.
However, now Cubans “can expect to see an improvement in terms of quality of service and reduced for cached latency,” the U.S. firm said when announcing the plan last year. It is surely a good sign for a country in which Internet access is controlled by the state.
Internet access still difficult for the average Cuban
Despite Google’s entry, there are still concerns that the benefits will only reach those who already have access. Google also acknowledges that its servers won’t be of much help to the average Cuban.
When announcing the deal with Cuba last year, the U.S. firm said, “Cubans who already have access to the internet and want to use our services can expect to see an improvement in terms of quality of service and reduced latency for cached content.”
The U.S. firm signed a deal with Cuba’s national telecom agency ETECSA in December.
Thanks to the poor infrastructure and controlling laws, the average Cuban still finds it very difficult to access the Internet. Most people don’t have permission to have an Internet connection at home. Access is only allowed at some places like education facilities, work and “at one of 240 public Wi-Fi spots,” says The Telegraph.
It also becomes very expensive for people to access it outside, as internet cafes charge around $4.50 and public hotspots cost $1.50. The average monthly wage for Cuba is about $25. According to Freedom House, an organization dedicated to political freedom and human rights, only about 5% of the people in Cuba have access to the Internet.
“The internet in Cuba will still be a painfully slow process. This is just another somewhat rare step forward. For Google services, which will be hosted in country, it will be a milestone,” said Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn, a global internet monitoring company.
However, Madory still sees it as “very noticeable for Cubans.”