Monthly Archives: August 2010

For the red curious

People frequently ask me to compare Cuba and China on the question of Internet use, and just about everything else. Fine. They’re both remote, exotic, Communist (flashing red light) countries that people are very curious (but know relatively little) about. Yet there are many fundamental characteristics that set them apart, though some are more obvious than others.

On the question of the Internet: China has poured untold amounts of money, human capital, and legislation into restricting Internet use among its citizens, while Cuba, as far as foreign researchers know, has gone the cheap route: Internet access is so hard to come by (and expensive to provide) that extensive content filtration simply isn’t necessary, and Cuba’s chillingly effective regime of social control keeps many Internet users from using the Web freely anyway.

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Internet access is not the same thing as rice

Cuba’s Ministry of IT and Communications has framed the Internet policy discussion around two central ideas: Cuba’s commitment to social and material egalitarianism, and the government’s obligation to “protect” the nation from the potential harms of the Internet.

Providing Internet access to all Cubans is presently impossible—Cuba does not have the necessary capital to provide Internet access and hardware to all of its citizens, and, partially due to US embargo-related restrictions, it has been unable to obtain the necessary bandwidth for such a project.[1] But the need to “protect” Cuba’s citizens raises a more complex question.

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