Google has signed an agreement with the Cuban government giving the small communist-governed island faster internet access.
As part of the new deal, Google will install its own servers in Cuba to vastly improve connection speeds to both Google services such as Gmail and YouTube, but also the internet and the World Wide Web in general.
Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google ‘parent’ company Alphabet Inc was there in person to sign the deal with Mayra Arevich Marin, the president of state telecommunications monopoly ETECSA, though neither took any questions from the press afterward.
At the moment, anyone in Cuba who wishes to connect to the web has to have their internet traffic routed through Venezuela; a process that generates lag and also creates packet loss and data distortion.
A Google statement read: “This deal allows ETECSA to use our technology to reduce latency by caching some of our most popular high bandwidth content like YouTube videos at a local level.”
Google and Etecsa cemented the final agreement in the dying weeks of outgoing US president Barack Obama’s tenure as President. His successor has spoken both for and against improved diplomatic relations with Cuba in recent years, and so at present it is unclear whether he will seek to renege on or continue the current open hand approach to the small island state.
While the new agreement helps remove one of the many obstacles to a normal internet in Cuba, it should be noted that internet access on the island is both limited and expensive. Home connections are illegal, and according UN stats, only 5.6% of Cuban homes had either intranet or internet access last year.
Current government rates for 10 hours of internet access cost ordinary Cubans the equivalent of a month’s average salary to access to public Wi-Fi areas, with speeds commonly too slow to stream video or download files of any significant size.