It might not be at the most efficient pace, but change is happening in Cuba. In the midst of his historic visit to the long-isolated island nation, President Obama revealed to ABC News that Google will be among the first American companies to help bridge the digital divide between Cuba and the developed world.
While Obama didn’t get into the details of Google’s upcoming initiative in Cuba, he did say in the interview that “Google has a deal to start setting up more WiFi and broadband access on the island.” From the sound of it, this plan could be something akin to the Fiber program which Google has been rolling out in the States.
Only 5% of homes in Cuba currently have Internet access. The country did launch its first public Wi-Fi hotspots last year, but the state-run ISP costs users a staggering $4.50 an hour, making it unaffordable for the majority of the Cuban people. In addition to limited availability and high costs, the state-run ISP is clocked as being some of the slowest Internet in Latin America. One bit of silver lining is that this year the state-owned ISP announced it will launch broadband home Internet to select neighborhoods in Old Havana.
Though Google has yet to comment on their plans for Cuba, it’s likely that whatever infrastructure the tech giant builds will lead to cheaper Internet for the country’s 11.2 million inhabitants. No matter who opens the portal to the online world for Cuba, they’ll still have to contend with Internet censorship by the Cuban government.
President Obama’s visit to Cuba makes him the first sitting U.S. president to visit the country in almost 90 years. Obama met with Cuban President Raúl Castro on Monday morning to discuss topics including the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba, human rights, and normalizing relations between the two countries.
For an entertaining glimpse at what life is like on the island nation these days, check out comedian Conan O’Brien’s visit to Cuba.[ABC]
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