Since Fidel Castro came to power 50 years ago, Cuba has remained one of the most isolated countries in the world. The state government controlled the media, and internet usage was limited to slow expensive, public WiFi hotspots. But that’s slowly changing as President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro have been making overtures towards warmer relations. Now, Google is utilizing that warming relationship and has signed a deal with Cuba’s state-run internet service provider. What does this mean for the Cuban people? What can the world expect next from Google as a result of the deal?
Google's Deal With Cuba May Be One Big Leap Forward
The internet is regarded as one of the key technological advances of the 20th century. Internet has made the world smaller, connecting people throughout the world to each other, and making long distances seem not so long. But more than that, it’s changed the way the world works and learns. The internet is so valuable because it gives access to education and opportunity.
But there are countries in the world whose citizens do not have access to internet, whose internet and media is controlled by the state. Until recently, Cuba was one of those countries, having some of the slowest, most expensive internet access in the world. But Google’s new deal with Cuba is setting out a path to change that.
On Monday, Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet Inc, signed the deal with Mayra Arevich Marin, president of Cuba’s state telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. The deal allows Google to store data servers on the island, speeding up access to some of Google’s services, such as Youtube videos. Storing Google data in Cuba eliminates the long distances which data must travel from the nearest Google server in Venezuela. While the new deal does nothing to increase internet speeds or get more people online (at least, not initially), this is serious progress.
Cuba has never allowed foreign companies to help with wiring or tech systems inside Cuba. Personal connections at home are illegal for most Cubans, and 10 hours of access to public wi-fi spots can cost the equivalent of a month's average salary – and those speeds are too slow to download files or watch streaming video.
For an American company to be allowed to store servers on the island shows growth on the Cuban government’s part, and bodes well for future relations.
The true value of this deal is the future potential Cuba has. As nextdoor neighbors, Cuba and U.S. would benefit from a warm relationship. However, with Cuba being a communist country, relations have never exactly been “warm” – at least not since Fidel Castro took power. But the best way to promote capitalism and democracy on the island is to allow Cuba to interact with capitalist countries. That can be done commercially through trade, physically through tourism, and educationally through the internet.
A week ago, Cuba gave three US cruise companies permission to begin sailing to the island next year. Another deal with General Electric is in the works. Now, the country just needs to allow the Cuban people access to the world around them through proper internet, where Cuban children can learn and grow, possibly helping the whole world in the future. And that internet access may just be Google and Cuba’s next step.
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This is huge news for Google (and the U.S) as Alphabet (GOOG) shares will continue to rise on the news.
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