By Yoani Sanchez:
Of the Cable, a Fiber
It is getting close, but it hasn’t arrived; they announced it but it’s not concrete. We may be able to see it soon from Punta de Maisi, nevertheless it seems so distant and remote to us. For more than two years the fiber optic cable between Cuba and Venezuela has been the carrot dangled before the eyes of the inhabitants of this disconnected Island. Its thin threads have served as an argument against those who insist that the web access limitations have more to do with political will than lack of bandwidth. We have paid attention to the sluggish wanderings of the umbilical cord that will connect La Guaira with Santiago de Cuba, the boat that brought it from France, and the news which announced it will increase our data, image and voice transmission speed by three thousand times. But something tells us that this cable already has a name, an owner and an ideology.
With its 640 gigabyte capacity, the new tendon will be particularly devoted to institutional projects monitored by the government. When the official press mentions its advantages it stresses that “it will strengthen national sovereignty and security,” but not one word is directed to the improvement of the information spectrum for citizens. At a cost of 70 million dollars, this underwater connection seems destined more to control us than to link us to the world, but I am confident we will manage to upset its initial purposes. In these times, when several installations from the so-called Battle of Ideas have been converted into hotels to raise foreign currency and there are warnings that unprofitable businesses will be liquidated, it is quite likely that many of the digital pulses will reach the hands of those who can pay for them. With authorization or without, connection hours will be sold — to the highest bidder — in a country where diversion of resources is a daily practice, a strategy for survival.
When we are connected with Venezuela along the seabed, it will be even more immoral to maintain the high prices for access to the vast World Wide Web from hotels and public places. They will also lose the justification for not allowing Cubans to have accounts at home, from which we can slip into cyberspace, and it will be more difficult to explain to us why we can’t have YouTube, Facebook and Gmail. The pirated connections will increase and the black market for films and documentaries will feed on those megabytes running across our island platform. In workplaces with Internet the employees will also use it to register with the U.S. visa lottery, surf foreign sites looking for work, and engage in lovers’ chats. They won’t be able to prevent our use of the cable for things very different from what is planned by those who bought it, those who believe an Island can be neatly tied up — with no loose ends — with a simple fiber optic cable.