Cuba: Students Ask Questions

“Why are Cubans barred from freely using the Internet? Why are those few who are lucky enough to get access to the Internet then banned from using Yahoo?” Child of the Revolution reports that Cuban students asked some tough questions in Havana recently.


  • The fundamental reason Cuban internet access is limited is because the United States government refuses to allow Cuba to purchase Internet access through the fiber optic cables which are already there under the Caribbean.

    Cuba is forced to purchase Internet access, ALSO from the United States, by the more expensive and much slower satellite system.

  • Actually the fundamental reason is that Cuba wants to control all access to information for it’s citizens. Free access to internet would mean the regime loses control over the information that Cubans can access.

    “The government passed laws as soon as the Internet appeared in Cuba. In June 1996, Decree 209 (entitled “Access to the World Computer Network from Cuba”) said the Internet could not be used “in violation of the moral
    principles of Cuban society and its laws” and that internet messages must not “endanger national security.”

    Cubans who want to have their own Internet access or use public access points must have official permission. To obtain it, they must give a “valid reason” and sign a contract listing restrictions. As with obtaining a
    telephone line, they must get also approval from ETEC SA, the country’s only telecom company, and from a local commission linked to the neighbourhood Committees for the Defence of the Revolution, which evaluates the merits of

    Decree 209 says access is granted “with priority given to bodies and institutions that can contribute to the life and development of the country.” Apart from embassies and foreign companies, this means political figures, top officials, intellectuals, academics, researchers and
    journalists working for the government, managers of firms that export cultural products, computer firms and senior Catholic church officials.

    A ministry of computer technology and communications was set up on 13 January 2000 to “regulate, manage, supervise and monitor” Cuban policy on communications technology, computers, telecommunications, computer networks,
    broadcasting, radio frequencies, postal services and the electronics industry.”

    Note: for info on the CDR see:

    Some little known facts:
    – Cuba used a Sprint (US company) cable to connect up to internet in the past:
    “Critics say, however, that Tides money helped Castro’s Cuba by donating funds to the Institute for Global Communications, whose Canadian affiliate in 1991 used an undersea cable link from Havana to Sprint in the United States – connecting Cuba to the Internet.”
    – a cable passes closely by Santiago de Cuba and a Jamaican company (independent of the US) had plans to connect Cuba up.
    TCCC Jamaica, one of three companies licensed to construct and operate an international sub-sea fibre-optic cable facility to Jamaica, wants to build another link from Cuba, and has asked the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) to amend its licence accordingly.

    Cuba “selected” a deal with distant Venezuela instead.

  • One note: if the problem is that the Cuban state can not afford to purchase internet access for the people, why not allow private citizens to access internet via satellite?
    Cuba bans satellite dishes for the reception of television, internet, …
    That would alleviate the “problem” the Cuban government has and would allow access for all the people anywhere.
    the fact that the satellite dishes aren’t allowed show that the cost (satellite or cable) isn’t the issue. Control is the issue.

    “””How many satellite dishes are in Cuba? Cuba is a country in which it is a crime to have a satellite dish unless you are a high-ranking official of the government or unless you are a tourist in one of the hotels. Otherwise, you are sent to jail. The same goes for computers. You cannot see the Internet in Cuba unless you belong to the government or unless you’re hiding it from the government.”


    the technology is there and internet access via satelite is cheaper than the U$ 250 the Cuban government charges a month for internet.
    Cuba would not have to build expensive infrastructure and local schemes could provide access to internet (and additional services like VOIP).

    In France the government has set up a scheme to use satellite connections for remote villages instead of pulling expensive cables.
    Reports from Spain: their assessment is that the WiFI solution is cheaper as no fiber optics are needed.

    High speed Internet in sparsely populated areas
    T E C H N O L O G Y W H I T E PA P E R

    “The solution described for bringing isolated areas out of the wilderness shows that the coverage of a terrestrial station in a conventional DVB-RCS satellite network can be extended using WiFi technology.

    Orbiting Internet Satellites to Bridge the Digital Divide

    “Information aparthied” is the real reason why Cubans have no access to internet.

    “Digital apartheid” – Cuba tightens access to the internet, e-mail, telephones”

  • Ramon lopez

    This tells you that Cuba does not enjoy the freedoms of the free world,no freedom of speech etc. I bet you this students will go to jail or be kick out of school.

  • No one claims Cuba can’t AFFORD to purchase
    internet access. Washington will not allow
    Cuba to purchase it FROM THE UNITED STATES
    via the fiber-optic cable connections below
    the Caribbean sea.

    Control is very much an issue and the Cuban
    state is going to maintain control over what
    comes into the island, just as any other
    country in the world does. That is called
    the exercise of national sovereignty.

    I may not agree with any decisions they make,
    but national sovereignty gives every country that right.

    Cubaverdad: WRITES

    One note: if the problem is that the Cuban state can not afford to purchase internet access for the people, why not allow private citizens to access internet via satellite?

    That would alleviate the “problem” the Cuban government has and would allow access for all the people anywhere.
    the fact that the satellite dishes aren’t allowed show that the cost (satellite or cable) isn’t the issue. Control is the issue.

  • A cable owned and operated by a Jamaican company passes at 60 to 80 km of the coast of Santiago. The company had interst to operate in Cuba and applied for an extension of it’s license in Jamaica to do so. It would have been easy to connect up to that. No Cuban source ever mentioned it.
    But the issue isn’t that: as shown above satellite based systems community based systems have been tested and used in Europe (France, Spain). They offer a low cost alternative to putting in expensive infrastructure.
    Furthermore a cable will be operating via Venezuela by early 2009. The delay is caused by the selection of the 1500 km route rather than other options (Jamaica). Then the regime will no longer have an excuse to limit access. I am sure it will continue to control access as it does now.


    With less than 2 per cent of its population online, Cuba is one of the most backward Internet countries. An investigation carried out by Reporters Without Borders in October revealed that the Cuban government uses several levers to ensure that this medium is not used in a “counter-revolutionary” way.
    Firstly, it has more or less banned private Internet connections. To surf the Internet or check their e-mail, Cubans have to go to public access points such as Internet cafes, universities and “youth computer clubs” where their activity is more easily monitored.
    Secondly, the computers in all the Internet cafes and leading hotels contain software installed by the Cuban police that triggers an alert message whenever “subversive” key-words are spotted. The regime also ensures that there is no Internet access for dissidents and independent journalists, for whom communicating with people abroad is an ordeal.
    Finally, the government also relies on self-censorship. You can get 20 years in prison for writing “counter-revolutionary” articles for foreign websites. You can even get five years just for connecting to the Internet illegally. Few Internet users dare to run the risk of defying the regime’s censorship.

    I agree that the issue indeed is control. The whole Cuban system is geared towards holding control over the population.
    It doesn’t do that “just like any other country in the world”, but to a far greater extent benying for example even people with valid entry visas for third countries the right to leave the country (all exit and re-entry to the country is subject to permits).
    I can’t see how denying people their human rights is legitimate execercise of “sovereignty” especially as the regime ensure it does not have to face any free and fair tests a the ballot box.
    As far as you agreeing or not with the regime Mr. Lippmann: your record stands and you reflect it on your website:
    The internet problem (plus communication – voip – and information problems) of Cuba can be solved very quickly. If the regime allows cyber cafés that use satellite internet access (small systems cost less than $300 and monthly fees of $70) that then can be shared.
    Cuba charges $6 per hour and last I heard over $250 a month for dial-up access. Black market rates are $50 to $80 a month.
    The real problem for Cubans is that the regime ipmoses an information apartheid on them (like the tourist en medical apartheid).
    The need for control of the Cuban regime is the one and only true reason why Cubans can’t have free access to the internet.

  • Ramon,

    You were right.
    Eliécer Ávila Cecilia, one of the students in the video, was arrested.
    Arrestan a joven que cuestionó a Ricardo Alarcón
    Por Juan Carlos González Leiva
    11 de febrero de 2008

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