April 28 (UPI) — Servers of Google Inc. located in Cuba went online Wednesday, making Google the first foreign Internet company to host content in the country.
The action comes four months after Google and Etesca, Cuba’s national telecom provider, agreed to a contract promising faster high-bandwidth services available in a country long accustomed to slow and expensive Internet service.
“I think this will be very noticeable for Cubans,” said Doug Madory of Dyn, a global Internet monitoring company. “The Internet in Cuba will still be a painfully slow process. This is just another somewhat rare step forward. For Google services, which will be hosted in country, it will be a milestone.”
Cuba has the Western Hemisphere’s lowest level of Internet connectivity, which is largely available only in 240 public access hotspots around the country. Etesca recently wired about 2,000 Havana homes for the Internet in a pilot project, but in both cases, only a relatively slow speed of 128 kilobytes per second is available, at prices many Cubans cannot afford. Cuba connects to the Internet primarily through an underwater cable from Venezuela.
With Google’s servers on the island, the practice of caching, which speeds Internet connections, means videos and other data load significantly faster.
Cuba remains in high tech’s dark ages, though. In a 2016 report on Internet freedom, the activist organization Freedom House said, “Rather than relying on the technically sophisticated filtering and blocking used by other repressive regimes, the Cuban government continues to limit users’ access to information primarily via lack of technology and prohibitive costs.”