The Cuban government announced it is conducting tests on an undersea fiber-optic cable connecting Cuba with Venezuela and Jamaica and, through them, the world.
The report in the state newspaper Granma said the ALBA-1 cable, in the works since 2007, has been operational since August when Cuba began studying voice traffic related to international telephony. Then, this month, it started testing the quality of Internet traffic on the system.
Until now, Cuba has only had satellite-based Internet largely because of restrictions under the 50-year-old U.S. trade embargo.
The global Internet monitoring group Renesys first broke news of the cable’s activation in a blog post that sparked an international buzz and seemingly forced Granma to confirm the report.
Doug Madory of Renesys says he has sifted through Cuba’s Internet traffic for the past six years and has never seen speeds like he’s seeing now. The latency, or lag time, is way down.
“Now it’s down to sometimes below 200 miliseconds, which has never occurred in Cuba. Ever,” he said.
That doesn’t mean Cubans will be streaming movies uninterrupted anytime soon. Madory says latency is still pretty high because of various factors, like antiquated equipment. And even if the speed improves further, that doesn’t mean access will.
“How much this helps the people of Cuba is an entirely different matter,” Madory says.
If you’re Cuban, you’re not allowed to get on the Internet without government permission. There’s a local intranet in schools and state-run computer centers, but connection to the World Wide Web is mostly limited to government officials.
There are ways around the restrictions. Some government workers quietly pad their salaries by renting out time on their home computers, but the price is prohibitive for most Cubans.