Over the last four years, the Cuban and Venezuelan governments have been planning to build a submarine fiber optic cable that will connect Venezuela’s Caribbean coast, Cuba, and Jamaica and will increase Internet connectivity in Cuba 3,000-fold. This week, the Ministry of Informatics and Communications announced that the cable will be put in place beginning in January of 2011. But the Ministry also indicated that contrary what many had hoped, the cable will not increase access opportunities for Cubans to access the Internet.
On Wednesday, Granma, the daily newspaper subtitled ‘Official Organ of the Communist Party of Cuba,’ reported the following:
“El cable submarino proporcionará una mayor calidad en las infocomunicaciones, pero no necesariamente significará una extensión de las mismas. La socialización del servicio dependerá más de buscar en las reservas de eficiencia que de la ampliación de la red.”
“The submarine cable will provide a higher quality of digital communications, but this does not necessarily mean that they will be extended. The socialization of service will depend more on finding efficient resources for network expansion.” [translation mine]
This means that those who already have Internet access will have a stronger, faster connection. But for those who do not have access, the cable will not lead to increased opportunities to get online. The term ‘socialization,’ which is heavily embedded in Cuban socialist rhetoric, is used to describe the public distribution of goods or services (think of socialized medicine.) I harp on the term because their use of it here suggests to me that the government is not prepared to add Internet access to the basic public services that it offers. The socialization of food, medicine, education, and shelter lie are fundamental to the salience of the Cuban socialist project as it currently stands. Clearly, Internet will not be a part of this group any time soon. Instead, it seems, it will remain a privilege.