How will the new immigration law impact the Internet?

The big news from Cuba this week has to do with the opening of travel to anyone with a current Cuban passport and a visa from the destination country.

But, everyone cannot necessarily get (or afford) a passport.

The law says a passport can be denied in the interests of defense and national security, to preserve the skilled workforce for economic, social, and scientific-technical development and to protect official information. If that is not enough, the authorities can also deny a passport for "other reasons of public interest."

It is easy to imagine these caveats being used to deny passports to people like dissident bloggers, networking professionals, and computer science students and professors. One can also imagine freer flows of information and IT goods -- particularly between Cuba and the US.

Time will tell.

Freedom House report on Internet freedom in Cuba

Freedom House's annual report Freedom on the Net 2012 is out. The report ranks nations on Internet freedom, which they compute as a function of obstacles to access, limits on content and violations of user rights. The Cuban country report is on pages 152-163 and Cuba ranks 46th out of the 47 nations surveyed.

The following are the actions Freedom House looks for. Those marked with a (C) are practiced in Cuba.

  • Web 2.0 blocked (C)
  • Notable political blocking (C)
  • Localized or nationwide ICT shut down
  • Pro-government commentators manipulate online discussions (C)
  • New law /regulation increasing censorship or punishment passed
  • New law /regulation increasing surveillance or restricting anonymity
  • Blogger/ICT user arrested for political or social writings (C)
  • Blogger/ICT user physically attacked or killed (C)
  • Technical attacks against government critics

The following figures establish some context. This world map shows the nations that Freedom House rates as not free, somewhat free and free.

Here we see all of the not free nations. Cuba is next to last, leading only Iran.

Part of the problem in Cuba is very low Internet penetration in homes, as shown below.

Bear in mind that the correlation we see here between Internet penetration and the index of freedom does not establish causality -- in fact the two variables reinforce each other.