Cubans, Cuban-Americans, Cuba policy experts, and now even big telecom (AT&T, Nokia, and Verizon) are pleading with the Obama administration to lift telecommunications restrictions in the embargo. This would be relatively easy–the legislation could be eliminated by executive order. But Obama hasn’t budged.
In July, I posted a link to Christopher Sabatini’s op-ed in Foreign Policy, where he explained that telecom regulations in the embargo keep companies (that have an affiliation with the US) from doing business in Cuba, and that this should change. Of course, I agree with him: half-wired is nothing if not proof that Internet and telephone connections have had a powerful, positive impact on the lives of Cubans thus far–why not allow these forces to continue building?
Earlier this week, Yoani Sanchez tweeted that she could no longer send Twitter messages from her cellphone, via SMS (presumably, she was tweeting from an Internet cafe.) Sanchez later posted a second tweet, requesting that Twitter confirm that it was not blocking service–Twitter responded, explaining that a technical adjustment had caused tweets sent via SMS to be lost.
The company has disabled long coding for sending tweets via SMS. Users must now send messages using short coding, i.e. a five-digit number, rather than a standard telephone number. Twitter is trying to recover messages that were lost during the transition.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, blogs from Babalu to The Havana Note were buzzing with accusations of censorship by the Cuban government, in spite of a statement by Cuba’s Vice Minister of Information Technology and Communication denying allegations that the government was involved. While many posted follow-up pieces, relaying the flashing red ‘technical difficulties’ sign from Twitter, some (Babalu) did not.