A Cuban approach to achieving Internet connectivity

(Spanish version)

Cuba's domestic Internet infrastructure is one of the worst in the world and the prospects for improvement are dim because of the U. S. embargo, a Cuban government policy of access control and scarcity, ETECSA's power, the lack of a trained, demanding technician and user base and a lack of capital. Can these obstacles be eliminated?

The embargo will eventually be dropped, and there are signs that that may be relatively soon. In the interim, China and others are willing to sell to and trade with Cuba.

Governmental control policy can change. When Cuba first joined the Interent, there was high level debate over the dictator's dilemma -- the perceived political and cultural threat of the Internet versus its value in improving people's lives and the economy. The decision was made to control the Internet and access to it, but that is not set in stone -- it can be reversed.

How about ETECSA? Is there any nation in which the incumbent telecommunication provider -- whether government owned or privately held -- has not acted in its self interest to the detriment of the people and economy? I suspect the answer to that question is "no." I have no knowledge of the current management of ETECSA, but I would be surprised if they were different than others.

ETECSA is jointly owned by the Ministry of Information and Communication and RAFIN, SA. The Ministry is of course part of the government and subject to political will -- policies and leaders can change.

RAFIN is a different matter. I don't know what their role is in the management of ETECSA. I don't even understand what the role of an "SA" is in a socialist nation. Where did they get the capital to purchase Telecom Italia's share of ETECSA? Who are the shareholders and investors? Do they share ETECSA profits and losses? Do they have a "seat on the board" -- a voice in picking executives and making policy decisions? I need the help of an economist here.

A trained, demanding technician and user base will come after connectivity becomes useful, widely available and affordable -- it will follow, not lead the path to a modern Internet.

That leaves the lack of capital. The Chinese took an active role in the financing and installation of the ALBA-1 undersea cable, and we speculated that they might also invest in complementary domestic infrastructure, but that has not happened.

The conventional wisdom from the World Bank or International Telecommunication Union is that the way to raise capital for connectivity is to privatize the telecommunication/ISP industry, and invite foreign investors to build infrastructure and compete on a level playing field watched over by a regulating agency -- privatization, regulation and competition (PCR).

Raúl Castro announced that they are working on a new foreign investment policy, which is of "singular importance to stimulate economic and social development of the country." The law is expected to be approved next March. It remains to be seen whether the new law and perceived demand would attract major investors, but even if they would, there is a problem with the PCR strategy -- it does not work well.

Many developing nations opted for PCR between 1991 and 2008:

In 2009 I looked at the data and concluded that "PCR has had little impact on the Internet during the last ten years in developed or developing nations." I have not updated that paper with subsequent data, but our experience in the US shows that private ownership of telecommunication service providers does not guarantee competition, efficiency and good service in spite of the good intentions of the regulators and congress.

We need a Cuban solution.

It would be great if Cuba could afford modern telecommunication infrastructure, with fiber to premises and backhaul for LTE mobile communications, but it cannot, so we need to think about cheaper interim approaches. The remainder of this post will speculate on one possibility -- a decentralized, multi-satellite policy.

Several years ago, I wrote a couple of articles (here and here) surveying wireless technologies for connectivity in developing nations -- tethered and untethered high-altitude platforms (HAPs), terrestrial wireless (WiMAX was a hope at the time), low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations and very small aperture satellite terminals (VSATs).

Google is experimenting with HAPs, but there are no meaningful deployments. As far as I know, no one is studying LEO satellites and WiMAX has not developed as envisioned. At the time of those earlier articles, VSAT was the only option for connecting rural areas in nations like India, but VSAT ground stations were large, expensive and slow.

Since that time, technology has progressed and the consumer market for satellite connectivity has grown. U. S. providers HughesNet and Viasat have 1,398,000 subscribers between them. In spite of long latency times, I have had smooth video conversations with friends using home satellite dishes in rural Brazil and Chile. The antennae are small, costs are down and speeds are up.

What if Cuba were to encourage the use of these dishes rather than ban them?

Cuba has said they will authorize agents to sell telephone and Internet time. What if they were to expand the program to allow those agents to own and sell time and services using satellite Internet links, in the same way Grameen Phone ladies in Bangladesh bought mobile phones to resell call time.

Today, there are a few illegal satellite installations in Cuba. Imagine 1,000 legal satellite dishes dispersed throughout the island providing Internet access and VOIP calls (which are illegal today).

If that were to be considered, I imagine ETECSA would want to own the ground stations and set prices. That would insure profits and government control over Internet access, but it would be short sighted. Allowing the satellite operators to own their own equipment, would create a decentralized, self-organizing group of entrepreneurs who would bring effort and innovation to the project.

The situation in Cuba today is reminiscent of the Internet in the late 1980s in the U. S. TCP/IP had been invented and shown to be effective in the APRANet and CSNET. The potential of the network was obvious to those who had used it, but access was restricted to a few organizations and people.

In order to bring others online, The National Science Foundation established NSFNet. They contracted for a national backbone network and offered all U. S. colleges and universities grants to cover the cost of a router and a connection to the backbone. They also offered connectivity to education and research networks in developing nations. When it was decommissioned in April 1995, NSFNet was the global backbone, linking 28,470 domestic and 22,296 foreign networks. (Note that Sprint, the developing nations connectivity provider, also provided connectivity to Cuba in spite of the embargo).

The entire NSFNET project cost the U. S. taxpayer $94.5 million -- a small investment with an inestimable return. Blanketing Cuba with small satellite dishes would have similar results.

The NSFnet investment was highly leveraged. While universities got free connections to the backbone, they were expected to provide access for faculty and students. Collectively, universities invested much more in their campus local area networks, training and staff than NSF did in NSFnet. The decentralized approach and the end-end network architecture pushed both capital formation and innovation to the edge of the network where there were eager investors and entrepreneurs.

What would be the role of the Cuban government in a decentralized satellite access world? Their most important task would be capacity planning and negotiating with satellite communication companies for bandwidth. They would also specify, evaluate and purchase ground station equipment (some of which could be manufactured on the island).

They should also take the lead in developing software for efficient offline operation with automatic compression and data transfer when the user goes online. That software would be useful in any limited bandwidth nation, not only Cuba. Necessity being the mother of invention, we might even see some novel solutions for busy executives travelling in "airplane mode."

The government should also support the satellite operators by offering loans to help with initial equipment costs and by facilitating training and the sharing of experience and best practices. One can imagine a government run micro-finance bank offering loans and the government paying the overhead costs for a satellite operator's association. As was the case with NSFNet, the government could phase out of some of this activity once the network was stable and self-sustaining.

Of course the satellite system is an interim step -- in the long run, it will be phased out in favor of modern fiber infrastructure. The satellite system would pave the way to that goal by building user skill and demand. The satellite links would also guide the government in allocating scarce fiber resources -- high demand areas would be connected before others. (Google followed a similar strategy in prioritizing neighborhoods when rolling out their gigabit network in Kansas City -- areas with many committed subscribers were the first to be connected).

Note that I have suggested the government be responsible for a fiber backbone, but not for providing Internet service. They should view the backbone as they view highways -- providing infrastructure for use by independently owned trucks, buses and cars. China followed a similar Internet rollout strategy, with government organizations building backbone networks that, by the end 1999, were being used by over 500 Internet service providers.

Recall that the NSFNet universities provided their own local area networks. One can also imagine pueblo or ciudad-area networks linking the ground stations in a town. As with NSF, the design and investment in any such networks should be local. In this case, I am reminded of the home-made TV distribution networks, in which people would install their own coaxial cable to connect homes and other locations to a central ground station.

At the start of this post, I listed hurdles along the road to Cuban connectivity. I have outlined a low-cost, bootstrap proposal for connectivity that does not require foreign investment.

That leaves the political hurdles. Maybe there is hope. As noted above, the U. S. has signaled a desire for political change and Raúl Castro has admonished Cubans to embrace economic reforms "without haste, but without pause."

More specific encouragement comes from First Vice-President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who has stated that "Today, with the development of information technologies, of social networks, of computing and the Internet, prohibiting something is almost a chimera, impossible ... makes no sense ... We must constantly be in dialogue."

I recognize the irony in proposing that the government embrace a technology that led to the imprisonment of Alan Gross and others. Reversing the law on satellite communication would require political courage, but it would also provide the government a powerful argument against the charges leveled against them and they would be pursuing a Cuban solution -- one in which the Internet is operated as a service to the people and society, not the government or telecommunication companies.
Update 1/5/2014

A person commenting on this post argued that U. S. policy would not have to be changed for this proposal to succeed -- he suggested that the policy changes announced by the administration in April 2009 cleared the way for sales of satellite Internet service.

The administration fact sheet on Reaching out to the Cuban People authorizes fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba. It goes on to explicitly allow satellite radio and television service, but does not mention Internet service.

I sent an inquiry to the Treasury Department asking if a satellite Internet provider would be able to get a license to serve a Cuban account. A spokesman replied that he would find out and let me know.

Update 1/17/2014

Satellite ISP IPSTAR says they have connected over 26,000 schools in Thailand, allowing more than 2,000,000 students access to online learning materials and IP-based applications. They downlink to LANs in schools and learning "cafes" and focus on delivering teaching matrial. This program appears to be relatively centralized and narrowly focused, but it is an example of a government sponsored satellite connectivity project.

Here is a short IPSTAR video on education and other applications:


Update 2/10/2014

As noted above, there are political obstacles to this proposal in both Cuba and the U. S. I asked the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U. S. Treasury Department, which oversees our Cuba trade policy, about this proposal.

OFAC's Cuban Assets Control Regulations policy regarding the Internet is as follows:

§515.578 Exportation of certain services incident to Internet-based communications.

(a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, the exportation from the United States or by persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to persons in Cuba of services incident to the exchange of personal communications over the Internet, such as instant messaging, chat and email, social networking, sharing of photos and movies, web browsing, and blogging, is authorized, provided that such services are publicly available at no cost to the user.

(b) This section does not authorize:

(1) The direct or indirect exportation of services with knowledge or reason to know that such services are intended for a prohibited official of the Government of Cuba, as defined in §515.337 of this part, or a prohibited member of the Cuban Communist Party, as defined in §515.338 of this part.

(2) The direct or indirect exportation of Internet connectivity services or telecommunications transmission facilities (such as satellite links or dedicated lines).

Note to §515.578(b)(2): For general licenses related to the provision of telecommunications services between the United States and Cuba and contracts for telecommunications services provided to particular individuals in Cuba, see §515.542(b) and §515.542(c), respectively, of this part. For a general license and a statement of specific licensing policy related to the establishment of telecommunications facilities linking the United States or third countries and Cuba, see §515.542(d) of this part.

(3) The direct or indirect exportation of web-hosting services that are for purposes other than personal communications (e.g., web-hosting services for commercial endeavors) or of domain name registration services.

(4) The direct or indirect exportation of any items to Cuba.

Note to §515.578(b)(4): For the rules related to transactions ordinarily incident to the exportation or reexportation of items, including software, to Cuba, see §§515.533 and 515.559 of this part.

(c) Specific licenses may be issued on a case-by-case basis for the exportation of other services incident to the sharing of information over the Internet.

The policy disallows satellite Internet connectivity services, which I have proposed here, but it does allow for specific licences on a case by case basis. When I asked about that, a spokesperson stated "Off the record, I just don't think our licensing policy has extended that far."

I checked with a second expert, anonymous source who disagreed, stating that a license probably would be granted and that an explicit change in policy was in fact under consideration.

He also pointed out that the biggest sticking point might be the issue of garnishment/attachment -- U. S. companies are afraid that by entering into business with Cuba/ETECSA, they would open themselves to lawsuits in the U. S. by Cuban-Americans trying to recuperate damages for expropriations by the Cuban government. This roadblock might require Congressional legislation to “protect” U. S. companies from such suits.

The bottom line from the U. S. side seems to be that there are obstacles, but there seems to be a desire to overcome them -- that would leave the ball in the Cuban government's court.

VOIP in Cuba -- what is the goal?

+Alam Brito sent me a link to a story about two Cubans who were caught selling illegal voice over IP (VOIP) telephone calls on the Interent in 2009. They were accused of having cost ETECSA $150,000 in revenue.

If that was true, another way to look at is that they saved Cuban citizens $150,000 minus their profit.

I don't know if the story is fact or fiction -- the technology it describes does not seem like javascript:void(0);it would work with limited dial-up bandwidth and satellite latency -- but the part about VOIP being illegal in Cuba is true. (If you have used Cuban VOIP domestically or internationally let me know about the call quality).

The first VOIP program on the Internet was Vocaltec's 1995 Internet Phone. It was a hobbyist novelty at first, but it was clear that that it offered the possibility of cutting phone bills and therefore telephone company revenue and tax. Recall that in 1995, many nations had state-run monopoly phone companies and they derived significant revenue from them.

The reaction of governments in many developing nations was to ban VOIP calls. For example, during a 1998 study of the Internet in India, my colleagues and I observed that VOIP calls were illegal, but the law was not enforced. VOIP shops advertised and operate openly.

India realized that VOIP was significant technology for a developing nation with low teledensity and income and a large expatriate population and legalized it a few years later. While many nations have done the same, VOIP remains illegal in Cuba. (I would like to see a list of the nations where VOIP is illegal).

It is tempting to point to this as another example of the inefficiency and greed of state-run enterprises and to call for privatization, inviting competitors in and trusting in the market watched over by a regulator to work in the public interest -- a strategy of privatization, competition and regulation (PCR). Indeed, as we see below, many nations privatized their telephone companies during the early years of the Internet:

However, In 2009, I wrote wrote an article presenting "data indicating that PCR has had little impact on the Internet during the last ten years in developed or developing nations."

I have not updated that paper with subsequent data, but our experience in the US shows that private ownership of telecommunication service providers does not guarantee competition, efficiency and good service.

I don't pretend to know The Best Way to structure ownership and management of telecommunication infrastructure, but the most successful nations (and cities) seem to be those in which the government provides some wholesale infrastructure and encourages retail service providers to compete.

While the optimal telecommunication ownership and control policy may differ from one location to another, the goal of that policy should be clear -- enriching people's lives and improving the economy -- not maximizing government revenue or the income of telecommunication investors and managers.

Update 12/22/2013

Raúl Castro announced that they are working on a new foreign investment policy, which is of "singular importance to stimulate economic and social development of the country." The law is expected to be approved next March.

It remains to be seen whether the new law and perceived demand would attract major telecommunication investors, but even if they could, as we saw above, that may not be in the best interest of the Cuban people.

US-Cuba thaw -- would it help the Internet?

President Obama and Raúl Castro shaking hands at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela drew a lot of news coverage, but it is just the latest sign of softening of US policy.

In 2009, President Obama said he is seeking "a new beginning" in U.S. relations with Cuba. For over a year, Conrad Tribble, second ranking diplomat at the US Interests Section in Havana, has been visible as he engages in dialog with dissidents and loyalists on Twitter (@conradtribble). He is shown here meeting with Cuban bloggers.

Last month, President Obama called for revision of our 1961 Cuba policy to reflect the reality of "the age of the Internet and Google and world travel," and Secretary of State Kerry, speakiing of Cuba, said "We have to continue to update our policies."

Change is in the air -- my question is, how will this effect the future of the Internet in Cuba?

The domestic infrastructure (mobile and landline) is woefully inadequate. A couple of years ago, I wondered whether China would finance an upgrade, and I guess the answer was "no." Might a warming of relations between the US and Cuba change China's stance?

What if the US were to drop the embargo tomorrow -- would Cuba be willing to accept foreign investment in ETECSA? In 2011 Rafin, SA bought out foreign investor Telecom Italia's 27% share of ETECSA and the rest is owned by the Ministry of Information and Communication. I do not understand how an SA operates in a socialist state or what its relationship is to the government, but they are not a foreign investor. Would the government allow competing service providers? The short term answer is surely "no."

I am not an economist, but I suspect that even if I were, it would be tough to imagine the path to modern Internet infrastructure in Cuba regardless of US policy.

Connect Cuba's video

A couple of months ago, the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) used the crowd-funding site Indiegogo to raise $35,000 for a campaign to "connect Cuba".

One of the things they promised to use the funds for was a campaign video, which is now online in both English and Spanish.

Video in Spanish

You can judge for yourself, but I had mixed feelings watching the video. It accurately depicts the sorry state of Cuban connectivity, shows and promotes the use of flash drives to circulate information within the island and I am on board with the goal of improving Cuban connectivity.

But, I was put off by the heavy handed presentation. The plot -- a woman takes pictures of some prostitutes and hands them on a flash drive to a colleague who writes a blog post about sex tourism in Cuba -- is not very subtle and the video feels like "made in the USA" propaganda. It was shot in Cuba, but I doubt that the actors were from Cuba. (If they are Cubans, they are in trouble). It even crossed my mind that some of the scenes in which the actors appear may have been shot on a set.

Regardless, it is for a good cause.

The FHRC has established Spanish and English Web sites for the Connect Cuba campaign. They are soliciting signatures for a petition and promise to work on the distribution of flash drives in, out and within Cuba.

Innovation, Not Litigation

Posted by Kent Walker, SVP & General Counsel

Tomorrow the House of Representatives will consider H.R. 3309, the Innovation Act. This bipartisan bill, introduced by Chairman Bob Goodlatte, approved by the House Judiciary Committee with a 33-5 vote, and supported by the White House, would go a long way to solve the patent troll problem.

The Innovation Act would address the explosion of abusive patent litigation, helping the patent system work as intended — promoting innovation.

Patent protection is meant to provide an incentive to innovate, spurring real progress that benefits consumers. Unfortunately, patent trolls are abusing a flood of questionable patents — like those on basic e-commerce tools such as online shopping carts and shipment notification emails — to attack supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, retailers, and many other businesses, large and small. Trolls use the threat of time-consuming and expensive litigation to extort settlements, even where their claims wouldn’t hold up in court.

This kind of patent troll litigation has grown like a particularly noxious weed, increasing four-fold since 2005. By some estimates it cost the U.S. economy nearly $500 billion over the past two decades. And the problem is growing.

It’s time to step up and take action. A broad coalition of companies and organizations support the Innovation Act, which would level the playing field by controlling discovery costs, raising pleading standards, and making fee-shifting a more meaningful deterrent to frivolous allegations. We agree with Chairman Goodlatte on the need to stop the exponential increase in the use of dubious patents to attack American businesses. And we believe that legislation can go further to address the significant burden that invalid business method patents impose on innovative companies.

We strongly support Chairman Goodlatte's bill and encourage all Members of Congress to vote for this important piece of legislation. The Innovation Act would stop patent trolls from abusing the system, letting America’s productive companies focus on creating new products and jobs, not fighting frivolous patent suits.

Video game developed by the Youth Computer Club

Che Guevara and Fidel Castro have inspired a Cuban shooter game, Gesta Final

Gesta Final is a keyboard operated game developed by a 12-person team directed by Haylin Corujo, head of video game studies for Cuba's Youth Computer Club.

It is intended to teach history as well as entertain and will be sold on the island, which means it will be relatively cheap. We have suggested that Cuba could exploit the ALBA-1 cable to serve Spanish language education -- could Cuba become a game exporter?

Has there been any reverse piracy yet -- have copies turned up in the US?

Alan Gross in context

We have followed the Alan Gross case because of its tie to the Internet in Cuba, but he is not the only American citizen being held on political charges in a foreign nation.

CNN has compiled information on the cases of Gross and dozens of other American citizens held by the governments of Egypt, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. The CNN post lists the names of the detainees along with timelines for events in their cases.

One hour Cuban Internet outage

Doug Madory of Renesys reports that Cuba was unreachable via satellite or the ALBA-1 cable for one hour today. I've no idea what the problem was -- preventative maintenance?, equipment upgrade? -- I will post a followup if I learn more.

Communication agents will sell telephone and Internet time

ETECSA is taking applications for communication agents who will sell and reload prepaid phone and Internet access cards, make calls and collect bills.

The agents will work on commission and charge the same prices as ETECSA. They will also pay taxes. Will this eliminate the black market for resale of Internet access?

This is reminiscent of Grameenphone's Village Phone agents in Bangladesh. In 1997, Grameen Bank began making making micro-finance loans to agents in rural villages who would purchase cell phones and sell calling time. They now have 210,000 phone agents and have also established "hut spots" -- village Internet access and services offices.

Quick update on Alan Gross on the fourth anniversary of his imprisonment

Alan Gross’ wife plans a protest at the White House on December 3 -- hoping to persuade President Obama to move to exchange Gross for the "Cuban Five."

I learned of this planned protest from a press release issued by JTA, a Jewish news agency. JTA has published 23 releases on Gross since he was arrested -- providing a timeline for the case.

I've also published several more detailed posts on this blog.

Update 12/2/2013

What do Barbara Boxer and Ted Cruz agree on? That Alan Gross should be freed.

On the fourth anniversary of his imprisonment in Cuba, former U.S. government contractor Alan Gross wrote a letter to President Obama, asking him to personally intervene in his case.

That letter, two others, signed by 14 and 66 US Senators are reproduced along with an article on the case in the Washington Post.

Update 2/10/2014

Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat from North Dakota just returned from a three day trip to Cuba to talk about agricultural trade. Heitkamp, who favors a change in our relationship to Cuba, met with Alan Gross and said that his "incarceration has really led to a point of difficulty in our continuing effort to normalize relations."

Material para enseñar a los niños a programar y usar las computadoras

Un colega y yo estamos preparando una colección de materiales didácticos en español dirigida a los jóvenes. Nos estamos centrando en tres programas - Tuxpaint, Scratch y FrontlineSMS.

Tuxpaint es un programa de dibujo dirigido a los niños de escuela primaria - que tiene todo tipo de herramientas, como sellos y transformaciones, que permiten de forma rápida hacer dibujos complejos con sonidos atractivos. Los niños pequeños lo aprenden con facilidad lo que les permite desarrollar las habilidades para navegar por el sistema operativo y el sistema de archivos - para construir un modelo mental de su equipo.

Scratch es un entorno de programación de arrastrar y soltar dirigido a los niños mayores. Se utiliza para crear programas gráficos que manipulan los objetos que representan los coches, pelotas, personas, etc. Los niños son inmediatamente capaces de crear programas sencillos, dirigidos por eventos, y pueden aprender cada vez más complejos programas - incluyendo muchos conceptos de programación como iteración, sentencias condicionales, tipos de datos, etc. Si tienen acceso a la Internet, también pueden compartir sus programas y colaborar con una comunidad mundial que ha compartido más de 4 millones de proyectos.

FrontlineSMS permite configurar un servidor de lista de mensajes SMS para cualquier comunidad de interés común, con independencia de lo que el interés es. Los mensajes se archivan en el servidor y se envían a los miembros de la comunidad. Esto ilustra la idea de un servicio Web y capacita a los jóvenes (o las personas mayores) para establecer comunidades de usuarios en las áreas de su interés y experiencia.

El material didáctico está en línea y usted puede usarlo para enseñarle a sus niños o uso personal. Si lo usa, o si tiene alguna sugerencia por favor háganoslo saber. Si su experiencia ha sido satisfactoria informe a otros usuarios de su existencia.

Electronic commerce in Cuba

A recent Juventud Rebelde post explains what electronic commerce is and gives a few examples of Cuban electronic commerce.

The good news is that there is a spark of interest in the topic.

The sad news is that they feel the need to explain "electronic commerce."

More sad news -- Carlos Lage (and others) pointed out the opportunity cost of restricting the Internet shortly after Cuba connected. In 1997 he said:
One telex can cost twelve dollars [whereas] the same message costs 75 cents in the form of a fax and 3 cents via the Internet ... in spite of our blockaded circumstances, we are in a relatively good position [to face the challenges of such scientific and technological changes], due to the educational and scientific work developed by the revolution.

CNN Video of Cuban Internet access centers

A short CNN news video covers one of the new Internet access centers in Havana (2m 19s).

Launching our spectrum database to help users dynamically access TV white space spectrum

Posted by Alan Norman, Access Principal

Spectrum is an essential resource to fuel the Internet's future—it can power improved broadband access and spark innovation in wireless technology. And, as with any important resource, effective management can help make sure we're making the most of what's available. Both policy and technology have a role to play in making sure that spectrum is managed, allocated, and shared in ways that can help the Internet grow.

Google's Spectrum Database is one such technology, developed to enable dynamic sharing of TV white space spectrum; this allows parties to use spectrum when they need it, and make it available to other users when they don't. In July 2013, we were certified by the FCC to operate the database for commercial use. Since then, early testers have provided feedback and insights on future innovations. Testers included GE Industrial Communications, which used the database to explore how it could enable new communication options for its Industrial Internet products.

Now, we're launching a developer API for the database that enables general exploration for any user, as well as a commercial account option for device manufacturers. The commercial account allows equipment makers to register their devices with our database in order to operate on available TV white space.

Adaptrum is the first device manufacturer to be certified to use our Spectrum Database, and is already using the tool in the field for a white space deployment, providing public Wi-Fi on the campus of West Virginia University (WVU). The white space network, which is managed by Air.U co-founder Declaration Networks, uses Adaptrum's equipment integrated with our Spectrum Database. The collaboration shows how dynamic spectrum sharing can help deliver broadband coverage and capacity to more rural areas.

We hope that the database continues to support new opportunities like the WVU white space network. With forward-looking policy as well technology advances, we can further encourage dynamic spectrum sharing and the wireless innovation that it supports.

Please contact GE Industrial Communications, Air.U, or Adaptrum for more information on their work.

Government requests for user information double over three years

Cross-posted with the Official Google Blog

posted by Richard Salgado, Legal Director, Law Enforcement and Information Security

In a year in which government surveillance has dominated the headlines, today we're updating our Transparency Report for the eighth time. Since we began sharing these figures with you in 2010, requests from governments for user information have increased by more than 100 percent. This comes as usage of our services continues to grow, but also as more governments have made requests than ever before. And these numbers only include the requests we're allowed to publish.

Over the past three years, we've continued to add more details to the report, and we're doing so again today. We're including additional information about legal process for U.S. criminal requests: breaking out emergency disclosures, wiretap orders, pen register orders and other court orders.

We want to go even further. We believe it's your right to know what kinds of requests and how many each government is making of us and other companies. However, the U.S. Department of Justice contends that U.S. law does not allow us to share information about some national security requests that we might receive. Specifically, the U.S. government argues that we cannot share information about the requests we receive (if any) under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But you deserve to know.

Earlier this year, we brought a federal case to assert that we do indeed have the right to shine more light on the FISA process. In addition, we recently wrote a letter of support for two pieces of legislation currently proposed in the U.S. Congress. And we're asking governments around the world to uphold international legal agreements that respect the laws of different countries and guarantee standards for due process are met.

Our promise to you is to continue to make this report robust, to defend your information from overly broad government requests, and to push for greater transparency around the world.

We strongly believe that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) must be updated in this Congress, and we urge Congress to expeditiously enact a bright-line, warrant-for-content rule. Governmental entities should be required to obtain a warrant—issued based on a showing of probable cause—before requiring companies like Google to disclose the content of users' electronic communications.

Testifying before the U.S. Senate on transparency legislation

Posted by Pablo Chavez, Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs

This morning, Richard Salgado, Director of Law Enforcement and Information Security, will testify before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law on the Surveillance Transparency Act of 2013.

We commend Senators Franken and Heller for introducing this bill, which would allow Internet service providers to disclose basic statistics about requests we receive from law enforcement for users’ information in the course of a national security investigation. The current lack of transparency about government surveillance programs undermines trust, economic growth and security, and the promise of the Internet as a platform for openness.

More transparency can help fix that. Since 2010, our Transparency Report has shed light on requests for user data that we receive from the government. We strive to surface new and useful data with every update. Richard’s testimony details our efforts to be allowed to disclose statistics about FISA requests that we may receive, including our motion before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Transparency is crucial, but it is only one step among many needed. As we wrote to Congress two weeks ago, it is clear that the U.S. government and other governments must examine broader reforms to government surveillance.

You can read Richard’s written testimony and watch the webcast of the hearing starting at 10:00 AM Eastern.

Ilegal satellite Internet service in Cuba

Alan Gross is in prison for bringing personal satellite equipment into Cuba and a plot to smuggle dishes in disquised as surfing equipment was foiled, but it seems that a clandestine business operating out of Miami has succeded where they failed.

According to articles in the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, the anonymous businessman has sold at least 35 personal satellite systems in Cuba -- for Internet access and low-cost international calls.

The anonymous business man runs a Web page which redirects to a video showing images of dishes, which are presumably in Cuba:

The video, which was uploaded on July 26, 2009 has the following description:
The articles also quote Ricardo Arevalo, general manager of Exede, a company that leases satellite internet equipment, as saying the "number of such systems in Cuba is closer to 300."

These systems are not cheap by Cuban standards -- getting the equipment in and installed costs between $3,500-$4.200, paid in advance in Miami. The bills are generally paid for by families members who live in the US and it seems that the motivation is purely business -- cheap phone calls and Internet access -- not political.

These reports leave me a bit skeptical -- it seems it would be too easy to entrap customers -- but, if these reports are for real, Alan Gross and USAID could have saved a lot of the taxpayer's money and Gross could be a free man.

Mobile expansion

In June, ETECSA predicted that there would be two million mobile subscribers by the end of the year. One step in that direction was the recent expansion of mobile coverage in Las Tunas, where they expect over 50,000 mobile phones by the end of this year and will add more base stations in 2014. Eighty percent of the province now has mobile coverage.

Cuba has historically invested more outside of the capital than most developing nations, and It is good to see resources being devoted to locations in the provinces, but, as far as I know, there is no support for smart phones -- is that the case?

Resources for young, Spanish speaking nerds and their teachers

A colleague and I are putting together a collection of Spanish language teaching material aimed at young people. We are focusing on three programs -- Tuxpaint, Scratch and FrontlineSMS.
  • Tuxpaint is a drawing program aimed at grade school kids -- it has all sorts of tools like stamps and transformations that let them quickly draw complex pictures. It also makes neat sound effects as they draw. Little kids learn it easily, and in doing so, they develop dexterity and learn to navigate the operating system and file system -- to build a mental model of their computer.
  • Scratch is a drag-and-drop programming environment aimed at junior high and older kids. It is used to create graphical programs which manipulate objects representing cars, balls, people, etc. Kids are able to create simple, event-driven programs immediately, and can move on to increasingly complex programs -- introducing many programming concepts like iteration, conditional statements, data types, etc. If they have Internet access, they can also share their programs and collaborate with a worldwide community that has shared over 4 million projects.
  • FrontlineSMS allows one to set up an SMS message list server for any community of common interest, regardless of what that interest is. Messages are archived on the server and forwarded to community members. This illustrates the idea of a Web service and empowers youth (or older people) to establish user communities in areas of their interest and expertise.
The teaching material is online and you are free to use it to teach kids or to learn on your own. If you use it or have suggestions for additions, improvements or others who would like to use it, please let us know. Also let other people know.

Eliécer Ávila and Operation Truth -- who is on the payroll?

Freedom House issues an annual report on freedom on the Internet. This year they rated 60 nations and Iran was the only nation rated as less free than Cuba.

One of the factors they consider in their ranking is the use of pro-government commentators to manipulate online discussions. We have learned of the extent of that activity from Eliécer Ávila.

In 2007 Ávila was a student at the prestigious University of Computer Sciences of Cuba (UCI), where he asked some embarrassing questions of Ricardo Alarcón, then President of the Cuban National Assembly. Ávila asked about travel and hotel restrictions, the economy, government transparency and the Internet.

(You can see video of the exchange between Ávila and Alarcón here. Ávila's remarks on the Internet begin at the 15:25 point).

While that video received considerable attention at the time, it is not as intersting to me as a conversation this year between Ávila and Yoani Sánchez. (An English language transcript is available here).

Ávila describes Operation Truth, which he worked on while a student at UCI. He outlines the scope and organization of the project -- a thousand students are active in social networks, where they write posts favoring the government and work as "trolls," disrupting discussion and attacking those who question the government.

This leads me to be a little paranoid -- wondering who might be on the Operation Truth payroll. One person who comes to mind is Walter Lippmann, who founded and moderates CubaNews, a Yahoo Group.

When I started this blog, I discovered CubaNews and joined the group. I posted a few things, including a link to a report I had written on the state of the Internet in Cuba. Walter commented on my posts -- arguing and changing the subject -- like a troll. Nevertheless, when I posted something on this blog, I also sent a link to the CubaNews group.

Those links also generated rambling disagreement from Walter, and finally, he stopped sharing my submissions. For a while, he posted trollish comments on my posts on this blog, but, after I replied pointing out that I posted his comments, while he censored me, he stopped. I have no way of knowing whether Walter is subsidized by the Cuban Government or anyone else, but his censorship and argument tactics make me wonder.

Do you know of others who might be Operation Truth trolls?

Update 10/0/2013

In an attempt to identify government-connected bloggers, dissident brothers, Luis Enrique and José Daniel Ferrer planted a fake story in a phone conversation that they assumed would be tapped. Read about it here. While it is possible that those who published or knew about the fake news could have heard it from others, it is clear that the brother's phone call was monitored.

Public relations campaign to Connect Cuba is seeking crowd source funding

The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba has launched an Internet campaign, Connect Cuba. They are attempting to raise $34,950 for a the campaign on the crowd source funding site Indiegogo. They have raised $28,035 so far, and the campaign ends at midnight tonight.

If they meet their financial goal, they plan to produce a high quality campaign video about the current human rights situation in Cuba, launch it online, along with an original song currently being developed to inspire the international community in supporting the human rights movement in Cuba, sign an important global petition, and create global support for the human rights movement in Cuba.

update 10/27/2013

The Connect Cuba campaign on Indiegogo succeeded (barely) -- they raised $35,235 so will now produce a song and PR campaign.

Update 11/4/2013

Connect Cuba has given a rough description of their planned campaign. The flash drive distribution project sounds interesting -- what sort of material will be included? Will it be a one-shot distribution or an ongoing project with new content in each distribution?

Freedom House report on Cuba in "Freedom on the Net, 2013"

Freedom House has published their annual Freedom on the Net report. (I also summariezed the 2012 report). Cuban Internet freedom is ranked 59th of the 60 nations surveyed, using an index based on:
  • Obstacles to Access—including infrastructural and economic barriers to access, legal and ownership control over internet service providers (ISPs), and independence of regulatory bodies;
  • Limits on Content—including legal regulations on content, technical filtering and blocking of websites, self-censorship, the vibrancy/diversity of online news media, and the use of ICTs for civic mobilization;
  • Violations of User Rights—including surveillance, privacy, and repercussions for online activity, such as imprisonment, extralegal harassment, or cyber attacks.
Here are the controls in effect in the top and bottom five scoring nations:

The USA rank will probably drop next year, reflecting the recent revelations of the extent of NSA Internet surveillance. (For the full list of national controls click here).

While Cuba's low rating is not news, the report includes a concise, well-referenced essay on the state of the Cuban Internet. The statistical summary from the article is shown here:

The key developments for May 2012 – April 2013 were:
  • Cuba’s eagerly anticipated high speed ALBA-1 fiber optic cable, which was expected to increase data transmission speeds on the internet 3000 fold, was connected in early 2013; however, access was limited to select government offices rather than being extended throughout Cuba (see Obstacles to access).
  • The government imposed tighter restrictions on e-mail in the workplace, installing a platform that blocks “chain letters critical of the government” (see Limits on Content).
  • In 2012 and 2013, the government continued its practice of employing a “cyber militia” to slander dissident bloggers and to disseminate official propaganda (see Limits on Content).
  • Arbitrary detentions and intimidation of bloggers increased in late 2012 (see Violations of User Rights).
  • Travel restrictions were loosened in early 2013 and some high-profile bloggers, such as Yoani Sánchez, were granted permission to leave Cuba for the first time in years (see Violations of User Rights).

Joining forces to advocate for a more affordable Internet

Posted by Jennifer Haroon, Access Principal

Imagine a world where you spent 30% of your monthly income on basic Internet service. Could you pay? What might you have to give up? For billions of people, these costs—and questions—are an unaffordable reality that stop them from accessing the Web.

Today, Google is joining more than 30 members to launch the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), a new coalition that cuts across boundaries of geography, sector, or size. Our goal? To help bring down Internet costs through policy change.

New technologies play a crucial role in bringing the Internet to more people worldwide—we’ve developed and invested in many of these big ideas over the years. We broke new ground with balloon-powered Internet access, are bringing broadband to Africa with TV White Spaces, and are funding organizations like the Internet Society to develop Internet Exchange Points in emerging markets.

These technologies can have major impact, but no single solution can connect the 5 billion people living without Internet access today. Policy change can help new innovation take hold and flourish; outdated policies can stifle progress. In Kenya and other markets that have adopted national broadband plans, policy change has delivered results, fast. A4AI will focus on those policy changes that can bolster new access technologies and initiatives and make the Internet more affordable to people worldwide.

Initiated by the World Wide Web Foundation, A4AI includes members from the technology, government, and nonprofit worlds, from developed and developing countries. Google—along with other Global Sponsors—joined the alliance in its early days to help establish the vision that exists today, as well as rally more members that share our mission for affordable Internet access.

A4AI has a specific goal in mind: to reach the UN Broadband Commission target of entry-level broadband access priced at less than 5% of monthly income worldwide. (According to the ITU, households in the developing world pay roughly 30% of monthly income for a fixed connection, so there’s a lot of work to do.) We’re working with A4AI on several initial projects, including:

  • Publishing a set of policy and regulatory best practices
  • Working directly with governments, with plans to engage with 10+ countries by the end of 2015
  • Releasing the first edition of an annual affordability report

Ultimately, A4AI is about making the world a more connected place. Over 90% of people in the 49 least developed countries are still not online. A4AI wants to help people in these countries to get access, to find a door to new information, opportunities, and ideas. Dr. Bitange Ndemo, the honorary chairperson of A4AI, has called for the need to remove “analog policies that are holding back the digital revolution” in emerging markets.

We couldn’t agree more.

Broadening Google Patents

Cross-posted with the European Public Policy Blog and Inside Search Blog.

Last year, we launched two improvements to Google Patents: the Prior Art Finder and European Patent Office (EPO) patents. Today we’re happy to announce the addition of documents from four new patent agencies: China, Germany, Canada, and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Many of these documents may provide prior art for future patent applications, and we hope their increased discoverability will improve the quality of patents in the U.S. and worldwide.

So if you want to learn about a Chinese dual-drive bicycle, a German valve for inflating bicycle tires, attach a Canadian trailer to your bike, or read the WIPO application for pedalling with one leg, those and millions of other inventions are now available on Google Patents.

Thanks to Google Translate, all patents are available in both their original languages and in English, and you can search across the world’s patents using terms in any of those languages. When there are multiple submission languages, you can move between them with a single click on the tabs at the top of the page, as shown in the screenshot below:

Report: How Google fights piracy

More music, video, text and software is being created on the Internet by more people in more places than ever before. Every kind of creative endeavor, both amateur and professional, is being transformed by the new opportunities and lower costs made possible by digital tools and online distribution. But copyright infringement remains a problem online, and Google is working hard to tackle it.

Today, we are releasing a report, “How Google Fights Piracy,” bringing together in one place an overview of the programs, policies, and technologies we have put in place to combat piracy online. Here are few highlights:

  • Better Legal Alternatives: The best way to fight piracy is with better, convenient, legal alternatives. On YouTube and Play, Google is committed to creating those compelling alternatives for users. Each time a music fan chooses YouTube or Play over an unauthorized source, for example, it’s a victory against piracy. And thousands of copyright owners now use Content ID on YouTube to elect to monetize user-generated content on YouTube, rather than take it down, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties from Google each year.
  • Follow the Money: When it comes to rogue sites that specialize in online piracy, other anti-piracy strategies will have limited effect so long as there is money to be made by their operators. As a global leader in online advertising, Google is committed to rooting out and ejecting rogue sites from our advertising services, to ensure that they are not being misused to fund these sites. In 2012, we disabled ad serving to more than 46,000 sites for violating our copyright policies, the vast majority detected through our proactive efforts. We are also working with other leaders in the industry to craft best practices aimed at raising standards across the entire online advertising industry. 
  • Removing Infringing Results from Search: When it comes to Search, Google is a leader in addressing the concerns of copyright owners, responding to more copyright removal notices, and faster, than ever before. During 2012, copyright owners and their agents sent us removal notices for more than 57 million web pages. Our turnaround time on those notices was, on average, less than 6 hours. That’s faster than we managed in 2011, despite a 15-fold increase in the volume of requests. 

Hundreds of Google employees work on the problem of piracy online, and we will continue to work with copyright owners to focus our energies on combating the problem.

Don't get locked out: set up recovery options for your Google Account

Posted by Diana Smetters, Software Engineer

This summer we’re posting regularly with privacy and security tips. Knowing how to stay safe and secure online is important, which is why we created our Good to Know site with advice and tips for safe and savvy Internet use. -Ed.

Strong passwords help protect your accounts and information on the web. But forgetting your password is like losing your keys—you can end up locked out of your own home. It gets worse if your password gets compromised or stolen. Sometimes the thief will change your password so you can't get back into your own account—kind of like someone stealing your keys and then changing the lock.

If you've lost your Google password, you need a way to get back into your Google Account—and back to all of your stuff in Gmail, Maps, Google+ and YouTube. To help you, Google needs to be able to tell that you’re the rightful account owner even if you don't have the right password. There are a few easy steps you can take right now to make it easy for you—and no one else—to get into your Google Account if you forget or don’t know the password.

1. Add a recovery email address. By registering an alternate email address with your Google Account settings, you’re giving Google another way to reach you. If you forget your password, Google can send a link to that recovery email address so you can reset your password. Google can also use that email address to let you know if we detect something suspicious happening with your account.

Setting up your recovery options can help you get back in
if you get locked out of your Google Account

2. Add a phone number to your Google Account. Your mobile phone is the best way to regain access to your account if you forget your password. It's like the "fast lane" for account recovery: we text a code to the phone number you've registered with us, and you're back in business in no time. Your phone is more secure and reliable than other means of recovering your account. Methods like “secret” questions (asking your mother’s maiden name or city where you were born) may have answers that are easy to remember, but they are also possible for bad guys to uncover. And we’ve consistently seen that people who register a recovery phone are faster and more successful at getting their accounts back than those recovering their accounts via email.

You can also get a text message if Google detects that something suspicious is going on with your account. Giving a recovery phone number to Google won’t result in you being signed up for marketing lists or getting more calls from telemarketers. 3. Keep your recovery options up to date. It’s a good idea to check your recovery options every so often. For example, if you change your phone number after setting up your recovery options, take just a minute to update your recovery settings to match. We'll remind you of your current settings every so often to make it easier for you to keep them up to date.

That’s it! You can either update your recovery options next time you’re prompted, or you can take two minutes to do it right now on our Account recovery options page. For more advice on how to protect yourself and your family online, visit our Good to Know site, or check out some of the other posts in our series on staying safe and secure.

A petition for greater transparency

Posted by Richard Salgado, Director, Law Enforcement & Information Security and Pablo Chavez, Director, Public Policy and Government Affairs

Today we filed an amended petition [PDF] in the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This petition mirrors the requests made to Congress and the President by our industry and civil liberties groups in a letter earlier this year. Namely, that Google be allowed to publish detailed statistics about the types (if any) of national security requests we receive under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, including Section 702. Given the important public policy issues at stake, we have also asked the court to hold its hearing in open rather than behind closed doors. It’s time for more transparency.

In addition, along with a number of other companies and trade associations, we are also meeting the President’s Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies today. We’ll reiterate the same message there: that the levels of secrecy that have built up around national security requests undermine the basic freedoms that are at the heart of a democratic society.

Fidel likes the Internet, but does that matter?

A recent story on Fidel Castro's 87th birthday calls him a "soldier of ideas on the Internet," who, according to his biographer and book editor, Katuiska White, surfs the Internet for "personality profiles, maps, monographs, data, anecdotes and recollection of events."

This took me back to the early Internet days, when the role of the Internet was being debated in Cuba. What was Fidel's view of the Internet?

One clue is his support of the formation of the Youth Computer Clubs (YCC), several of which had email and Usenet access in the pre-Internet days. This article recounts his financial and policy support of the clubs. As shown below, he expressed his envy of the young people at the dedication of the YCC headquarters, which occupied what had been the Sears store in Havana.

Fidel Castro dedicates the YCC headquarters
This post by Omar Pérez Salomón includes several other quotes and actions indicating that Fidel continued to favor education in computer science and the use of information technology (though perhaps not the Internet).

On the other hand, government leaders like Raúl Castro and Ramiro Valdés have warned of dangers the Internet poses.

Raúl Castro and Ramiro Valdés
The state of the Internet in Cuba today leads one to conclude that, whatever Fidel may say or believe, widespread access of the citizens to the Internet has not been a priority of the government.

Tata switches from satellite to cable and Fidel likes to surf the Web

Doug Madory of Renesys, an Internet monitoring company, has reported that Cable and Wireless is no longer carrying traffic between Jamaica and Cuba, Telefonica is carrying less traffic than previously, and Tata is carrying more. Furthermore, the Tata traffic has shifted from satellite to the high-speed undersea cable, as shown in these improved traceroute times from Miami:

As we see, around June 25, Tata traceroute times from Miami dropped from about 580 milliseconds to about 130 milliseconds, indicating a shift from satellite to the undersea cable. At the same time, Telefonica traffic from Miami stopped. (The central band at around 330 milliseconds indicates asymmetric traffic which is over cable one way and satellite the other).

You should check Doug's post -- it contains several other plots and links, including one to an article on Fidel's birthday that says he likes to surf the Net. This reminded me of his early recognition of the importance of information technology, expressed at the time of the opening of the Youth Computer Club headquarters in Havana in 1991.

The undersea cable has brought faster connectivity to Fidel and a few others, but without improved domestic infrastructure, service will remain poor or nonexistent for the majority of the population.

More patents in the service of open source

Posted by Duane Valz, Senior Patent Counsel

Open-source software has accelerated the pace of innovation in computing, leading to better products and services at lower cost. But as the impact of open-source software has grown, so too has the number of patent attacks against it.

In March, we announced an Open Patent Non-Assertion (OPN) Pledge—committing not to sue any user, distributor or developer of open-source software on specified patents, unless first attacked. Our goal was to encourage pro-competitive, defensive uses of patents to support open-source innovation.

Today we are pleased to expand the OPN Pledge to include an additional 79 patents. These patents cover software used to efficiently operate data centers, including middleware, distributed storage management, distributed database management, and alarm monitoring.

We acquired these patents from IBM and CA Technologies, companies that in 2005 were among the first to make open-source patent pledges. The goal of the patent system is to foster innovation, and we aim to use patents, whether acquired or developed internally, in support of that goal.

You can learn more about this second group of patents and the Pledge itself on our site, which we’ve also updated to make it easier to browse and download data on pledged patents.

To date, the patents we’ve included in the Pledge have generally related to “back-end” technologies: servers, data centers, and the like. But open-source software is also transforming the development of consumer products that people use every day—so stay tuned for additional extensions to patents covering those sorts of technologies.

ALBA-1 undersea cable background documents

The ALBA-1 undersea cable was installed by a joint venture made up of Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell (ASB) and Telecomunicaciones Gran Caribe (TGC). TGC is itself a joint venture between the Venezuelan and Cuban governments. It is 60% owned by state-run CVG Telecom (now Telecom Venezuela) and 40% by Cuban Transbit.

The landing points

Sketch of the terminal station
Wikileaks has a slide deck and four background documents on the proposal and contracts.

Slide deck

The slide deck, entitled "Cuba-Venezuela Submarine Project Benefits 2/2," is part of a sales pitch comparing the ASB proposal to a competing proposal from Huawei. They stress their position as a one-stop vendor with their own fleet, experienced people, and superior cable and repeaters.

The embargo is also an issue. ASB emphasizes freedom from embargo conflicts arising from US patents in the equipment Huawei proposes using. They also point out that a US company makes the power feed equipment used during cable laying and repair operations in the Huawei proposal.

(I could not find Part 1 of the presentation).

Background documents
Here is an excerpt from a summary of the documents written by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange:
Documents released by Wikileaks reveal that Cuba and Venezuela signed a confidential contract in 2006 to lay an undersea fibre-optic cable that bypasses the United States. The cable is to be completed by 2010.

The contract between the two countries, which has been independently verified, adds weight to Cuban statements that the United States economic embargo of the island has forced it to rely on slow and expensive satellite links for Internet connectivity. Cuba is situated a mere 120 kilometres off the coast of Florida. The proposed 1,500 kilometre cable will connect Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad to the rest of the world via La Guaira, Venezuela.

Carrying out the work are CVG Telecom (Corporación Venezolana de Guyana) and ETC (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba).

The leaked documents have technical details and pictures of the cable, maps, and systems to be used, parties signing the agreement, terms and conditions, costs, and a schedule of charges and compromises. The connection allows for the transmission of data, video and voice (VoIP). According to the contract, the agreement is designed to build a relationship of "strategic value" which will permit Cuba and Venezuela to, among other matters:
  • Increase interchange between the two governments.
  • Foster science, cultural and social development.
  • Increase the volume and variety of relationships between country members of ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for America) and the South American MERCOSUR trading block.
  • Help serve the increasing demand of commercial traffic between Cuba, Venezuela and the rest of the world.
The contract parties state that given the diversity of foreign affairs, they wish to build a new international order, multi-polar, based in sustainability, equity and common good and that an international cable with maximum security protected by international organizations (ITU/ICPC) is crucial.

The documents disclose plans to separate commercial traffic and governmental traffic upon data arrival.

We now know that the planned schedule shown below was overly optimistic.

The cable was not operational until 2013.  There has been speculation on the causes of the delay, but one cannot overlook finances as a contributing factor.  A subsequent Wikileak document on a meeting of financial officers from several Cuban embassies, including China, reveals frustration over Cuban debt.

The goals listed by Assange have not yet been achieved either.  Again, part of the explanation for that is financial -- the government cannot afford domestic infrastructure to complement the cable and foreign investors are not willing to come to Cuba.  One way to pursue the goals Assange lists would be to focus on key sectors like education and health care.