Cuban home connectivity prices leaked (with a tidbit at the end of the post)

Diario de Cuba reported that Etecsa will begin selling home Internet connectivity in September. Prime time prices will be:

The night time price (8PM - 7AM) will be 20 CUC for 90 hours, with a charge of 20 convertible centavos per hour after the limit is exceeded.

Access to the Cuban intranet will cost less, but they did not give prices.

They reported that ADSL service will be available in some areas, but said nothing about where. My guess is that most users will be restricted to dial up connections. It also remains to be seen which, if any, Web sites will be blocked.

At these prices, there will be a lot of overhead slack for home owners to sign up for a plan then resell access to others.

Here is the interesting tidbit:

The post shifts topics near the end, with a brief undersea cable discussion, saying that an unnamed ETECSA official said that the US Government had approved an $18 million proposal for an undersea cable connection between Florida and Cuba in 2010. Cuba opted instead for the $70 million ALBA-1 cable.

Has the US approval been documented? If Cuba did in fact turn it down in favor of ALBA-1 (or both), one cannot help suspecting corruption.

Update 3/9/2014

Etecsa has announced yet another expensive service, mobile intranet email for 1 CUC per megabyte sent or received.

Protecting Consumers From Identity Theft and Scams

Posted by Sheily Chhabria, Head of Strategic Operations, Product Quality Operations

Keeping your information safe and secure is one of Google’s top priorities and to celebrate National Consumer Protection Week we wanted to share a few things that we do to help protect you and your information from harm on the web.

Google scans the web to find the most useful and interesting content to display in your search results, but while we’re looking for all that good stuff, we sometimes find sites or links that seem unsafe - that might be set up to steal your information or silently take over your computer. We identify about 10,000 of these bad sites daily and if you try and visit a site that is unsafe, we show warnings like the one below.   

These warnings help you avoid sites containing software that might steal your personal information or harm your computer.

These warnings appear on millions of Google Search results and we also make information about these unsafe sites available to other companies and developers so that users on many services, not just Google, can be protected from harm. This work helps protect you and about one billion other internet users from these types of sites .

If one of these bad sites did manage to steal your sensitive information, like your social security numbers or driver’s license, and published it on the web, you can report it to Google to have your information taken out of our Search results. We also follow this process for sensitive financial information like credit card numbers or bank account numbers.

Google also has strict policies about the kinds of goods and services that can be advertised using our ad systems and on our publisher network. For example, we don’t allow ads for certain types of things that might harm your computer or cost you money, like malicious downloads, or ads for products or services with unclear billing practices, like hidden costs. We also don’t allow ads with misleading claims (“lose weight guaranteed!”), for counterfeit goods, or fraudulent work-at-home scams (“make a million dollars an hour - from your kitchen!”). 

Misleading ad screenshot .jpg
We don’t allow scammy ads that mislead consumers

In 2013 alone we removed more than 350 million bad ads from our systems and banned more than 270,000 advertisers from using Google’s ad services. We proactively look for these ads to keep them off our systems, and listen to feedback from consumers if they tell us an ad is no good. In fact, you can report scams, inappropriate content or bad behavior using some of the safety tools that are built into many Google products.  

Technology is complicated, but thankfully you don’t have to be a computer scientist to help protect yourself online. The Google Safety Center has advice and tips from security experts on the simple things you can do to protect yourself and your family from online threats like identity theft or scams. And if you’re looking for a way to celebrate along with us this week, please check out our blog post series on quick steps you can take to help improve your online safety and security. You can also get more information, videos and advice from some of the many consumer protection organizations celebrating this week, such as the Federal Trade Commission,  the National Association of Attorneys General and many individual State Attorneys General, and the Better Business Bureau.

Is the U. S. blocking Cuban Internet access?

In a recent post, I looked into the charge that Coursera had blocked access to their educational material at the request of the U. S. Government. Subsequently, Cartas Desde Cuba charged that the US Government had ordered satellite ISPs to block access to Cuban accounts.

I followed up on these and this is what I found:

The U. S. Treasury Department denies asking satellite ISPs to block access to customers in Cuba and Cartas Desde Cuba did not reply to my email asking for the source of their report. That leaves me with no reason to believe the charge that satellite ISPs were told to cut off Cuban accounts.

Coursera is one of three prominent U. S. sources of massive, online educational material. I followed up with the other two, edX and Uacity, to see if they had been told to block access to their material:

EdX: They applied for a Treasury Department license without being asked to and it was granted (after seven months).

Udacity: Google serves their material, and as far as they know, it is not blocked. I asked Google, but they did not reply. (Google never replies to me).

Coursera: They were asked by the Treasury Department to block access, but they are seeking a license to serve blocked nations.

Overall, the Treasury Department seems willing to grant these licenses (as with edX), but evidently wants to review each case (as with Coursera). Either way, the process takes a long time. Furthermore, how many organizations unilaterally censor themselves in order to avoid problems? This feels more like bureaucratic rust than an intentional policy, but blocking or delaying access to free educational material is a bad idea -- they should clarify the policy.

How does one post material on the Cuban "sneaker net?"

Warhol P has written a Havana Times post on the Cuban "sneaker net" -- the circulation of movies, TV shows, software, etc. on flash and hard disk drives.

He reports prices of 50 Cuban Pesos (around $2) for 80 to 500 gigabytes of material and 10 Cuban Pesos for 8 to 16 gigabytes. (These days one can get 64GB USB-2 flash drives for under $30 and 128 GB drives for under $50).

Warhol P says home delivery service is available and some consumers go to the home of the supplier to put together a package in accordance with their preferences. Other suppliers rent out hard drives for three to four days for a little over 4.00 Cuban Convertible Pesos (around $4).

But I have a question -- how does one gain access to the sneaker net? For example, I have developed some Spanish language tech teaching material for young people. It is under Creative Commons license and I'd be happy to see it distributed in Cuba. I'd also like to see the Khan Academy teaching material distributed in Cuba using KA Lite, a packaging of the Khan Academy content for use off line.

Are the sneaker net distributions put together in the US? Are they pretty much only entertainment and software or are they open to other types of material? Is there a way to submit material for inclusion?

Cuban mobile Internet prices

Cuban authorities have announced that mobile Internet services will be available on the island soon at a maximum rate of 1 Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) per megabyte of data transferred. (1 CUC = 1.14 USD).

As far as I know, they have said nothing about the technology (3G or 4G?) or the locations in which it will be available.

But, they did announce the cost, and in case you imagined Cubans streaming Netflix movies or Pandora songs to their mobile phones. let's look at the cost of doing so at the published rate:

These are Apple's conservative file size estimates.

(Lest you consider the Cuban costs outrageous, consider that, if Apple had charged the same rate for song downloads as your friendly US phone company was charging for text message bits a few years ago, a song would have cost you $5,486).

Mobile Internet access at these prices are well beyond the means of ordinary Cubans even if they only do a little Web browsing and email. In the past, the Cuban government has justified high Internet prices by saying they were needed to ration scarce international satellite bandwidth, but, now that the ALBA 1 undersea cable is operating, what is the justification for these prices?

Venezuela cracks down on the Internet

The tension between the benefits of the Internet and it's power as a political communication tool has been with us since the early days of the Internet. When the Internet came to Cuba, the government debated this Dictator's Dilemma and decided to limit and monitor access. The Venezuelan government took a more liberal stance and, today, the Internet is more advanced and ubiquitous there than in in Cuba.

The current political protests have led the Venezuelan government to crack down on the Internet -- see these posts from the Electronic Froteir Foundation, the Associated Press and Aljazeera America.

Perhaps President Maduro wishes Venezuela had adopted the Cuban policy. How, if at all, does this affect Cuba?

Cuban mobile access prices

Cubansocial gives us a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the monthly cost of mobile Internet activity in Cuba. The estimate for email and a bit of Web browsing is 2-300 megabytes per month. That would cost 1,000 to 1,500 CUC if one paid the following "maximum" rates rates.

Who pays less than the maximum rate? Who uses mobile Internet?

Note the WAP tarif -- a reminder that Cuba is not using current technology.

It’s time to reform government surveillance laws

Posted by Susan Molinari, VP Public Policy 

The revelations about government surveillance practices—both in the U.S. and globally—over the past eight months have sparked a serious and overdue debate about the nature and scope of existing laws and programs. Today, many organizations and companies are participating in “The Day We Fight Back,” a series of events and awareness campaigns highlighting the urgent need for surveillance reform around the world.

Google recognizes the very real threats that the U.S. and other countries face, but we strongly believe that government surveillance programs should operate under a legal framework that is rule-bound, narrowly tailored, transparent, and subject to oversight.

In December, along with other technology companies, we unveiled a set of government surveillance reform principles that address many of the recent concerns around government surveillance. In Congress, Representative Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Senator Leahy (D-Vt.) have introduced legislation—the USA Freedom Act—that would codify many of these principles. As they both noted when introducing this bill, government surveillance programs “have come at a high cost to Americans’ privacy rights, business interests and standing in the international community.”

The USA Freedom Act reflects some of the key recommendations made by the President’s Review Group on Intelligence Communications and Technologies as well as the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. We support this legislation and we urge Congress to enact it into law.

But there’s more that can be done as we consider appropriate reforms to government surveillance laws. Congress should update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) to require governmental entities to obtain a warrant before they can compel online companies to disclose the content of users’ communications. Legislation introduced by Senators Leahy and Lee (R-Utah) in the Senate and Representatives Yoder (R-Kan.), Graves (R-Ga.), and Polis (D-Colo.) in the House would achieve that goal. More than 100 companies, trade associations, and consumer groupsand more than 100,000 Americans—have signed on to support this important update to ECPA, which no longer reflects users’ reasonable expectations of privacy.

We will continue to press Congress to adopt these important measures, which would represent significant progress in the broader effort to reform government surveillance laws. If you want to receive updates from us, please visit and sign up.

The Bit-l list server

This is an unusual post -- it is an email message from the Bit-l list server, which has been edited by Ing. Jorge Espresate X. since the very early days of the Internet in Cuba.
As you see, it is a system for retrieving articles by sending an email message. I am posting it now, because email-based retrieval systems were shown at the Hackathon for Cuba last weekend in Miami.
BIT-L is a terrific service, but its limitations are testimony to the price Cubans have paid for their antiquated Internet.
Here is the Bit-l subscriber information and current article list:
Envíe los mensajes para la lista Bit-l a

Para subscribirse o anular su subscripción a través de la WEB

O por correo electrónico, enviando un mensaje con el texto "help" en
el asunto (subject) o en el cuerpo a:

Puede contactar con el responsable de la lista escribiendo a:

Si responde a algún contenido de este mensaje, por favor, edite la
linea del asunto (subject) para que el texto sea mas especifico que:
"Re: Contents of Bit-l digest...". Además, por favor, incluya en la
respuesta sólo aquellas partes del mensaje a las que está

Asuntos del día:

1. Nuevos BITs, 4376 a 4380 (


Message: 1
Date: Sun, 02 Feb 2014 22:24:03 +0100
Subject: [Bit-l] Nuevos BITs, 4376 a 4380
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII

La Habana, CUBA,


Estimad@s suscriptor@s y amig@s:


Los que utilizan Outlook Express en alguna de
las variantes de Windows deben leer este mensaje
hasta el final... les ayuda.

BIT-4376 2014/02/03 (3 pags.)
por Arnaldo Coro A.
de GiGA, No. 2 - 2013

BIT-4377 -- 2014/02/04 (4 pags. y figs.)
(pide las figuras a: jespres@... )
PC World, Especial, No. 4

BIT-4378 -- 2014/02/05 (5 pags.)
por Benoit Breville y Pierre Rimbert
de Le Monde Diplomatique No. 218, 12/2013

BIT-4379 -- 2014/02/06 (6 pags. y figs.)
(pide las figuras a: jespres@... )
por Alberto Castro G.
de PC Actual, No. 255

BIT-4380 -- 2014/02/07 (3 pags.)
por Alain Karioty
de BYTE TI, No. 212 Ene/2014

los BITs donde se anuncian figuras o tablas, cuando te interese
verlas, debes pedirlas con un mensaje a:
indicando siempre el numero del BIT donde se anuncian

Recuerden que la lista de suscriptores ya estA en Mailman y para
suscribirse o borrarse de la lista, hay que entrar a:

o puedes pedirla directamente a:

Los BITs tienen que pediros a:


Son Boletines tecleados en Courier New 12 ptos. convertidos
a ASCII sin compactar ni codificar y con acentos y otras
peculiaridades del espanol, con la letra correspondiente y
el signo ~. (a~, e~, n~... etc.)

Para recuperar todos los BITs o el que te interese, debes
enviar un mensaje escrito en ASCII a:


dejando el asunto en blanco o lo que es lo mismo, en el
Subject: no pongas nada

y en el cuerpo del mensaje (donde este se escribe) con
letras minusculas empezando a partir de la esquina superior
izquierda de la pantalla y poniendo una solicitud en cada
linea. tampoco le pongan firma a su mensaje.

Si hacen copia y pega, el mensaje puede ser:
get bit bit-4376
get bit bit-4377
get bit bit-4378
get bit bit-4379
get bit bit-4380

(si quieres recuperar todos los BITs de este anuncio).

(si quieres saber que se ha publicado en los BITs
sobre eu tema que te interese, p.ej. "memoria") en otra linea pones

search bit "memoria" [YA FUNCIONA]

(si quieres recibir el indice de todos los BITs publicados)

index bit [NO FUNCIONA]

y finalmente


y lo
<e>nvias> o <s>end>, y recuerda... sin firma.


Para los suscriptores que utilizan el software OUTLOOK
EXPRESS que han de ser muchos...

debes tener presente que este software de manera predeterminada
envia los mensajes en formato HTML y el Listproc de listas no los
entiende y te los devuelve.
Siempre, antes de enviar un mensaje al listproc de listas, con
el Outlook, debes entrar al menu FORMATO de la ventana MENSAJE
de ese software y marcar la opcion: TEXTO SIN FORMATO o PLAIN
TEXT... al utilizar esta opcion, el mensaje que vas a enviar,
se escribe en ASCII y asi, no tendras problemas para recuperar
los BITs, los search o el index que te interese!!!

Recuerden que si no les llega el aviso con el anuncio de los
nuevos BITs deben enviar un mensaje a:

chirrin chirran... ya se acabo!!!

hasta la semana que viene...!!!

Suscribete a BIT... es gratuito! y... te actualizas!
Avisale a tus amigos que estudian o trabajan la Informatica

Ing. Jorge Espresate X.
Editor de BIT
Boletin Gratuito
Moderador bit-l


Este mensaje le ha llegado mediante el servicio de correo electronico que ofrece Infomed para respaldar el cumplimiento de las misiones del Sistema Nacional de Salud. La persona que envia este correo asume el compromiso de usar el servicio a tales fines y cumplir con las regulaciones establecidas



Subject: Pié de página del digest

Bit-l mailing list


Fin de Resumen de Bit-l, Vol 119, Envío 1

Coursera courses blocked in Cuba (by the US!)

I just got an email from reader and contributor Doug Madory with the subject "Coursera blocked in Cuba."

My first reaction was anger that the Cuban government would block educational material -- maybe they were trying to censor something from a Latin American history class?

But, following the link Doug sent, I discovered that Coursera has been blocked by the U. S. because they were violating export control regulations prohibiting U.S. businesses from offering services to users in sanctioned countries, including Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. 

I try to keep my political opinions off this blog, but that is brain damaged.

Coursera says they are "working very closely with the U.S. Department of State and Office of Foreign Assets Control to secure permissions to reinstate site access for students in sanctioned countries."

I realize that few people in Cuba can access Coursera classes, but even as a largely symbolic gesture, that is a no-brainer.

Update 2/5/2014

I have followed up on this story in an attempt to determine whether the U. S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) ordered Coursera to block access to Cuba (and other nations -- Iran. North Korea, Libya and Sudan) or the company blocked access unilaterally in order to avoid possible problems.

Reader Alam Brito pointed out that the Google Code and SourceForge sites were also blocked. (Follow the links in the previous sentence to see their statements on the issue).

I've attempted to contact each of these companies to learn whether the government ordered them to block Cuba and the others. Here is what I have learned so far:
  • Coursera says they were told to block their site by both OFAC and the State Department.
  • SourceForge had promised to get back to me.
  • Google has not answered emails or phone calls.
I also contacted OFAC.  They said they could not comment on specific cases, but sent a copy of the following policy statement:
  • OFAC administers various sanctions programs, including programs that generally prohibit the exportation and re-exportation of goods, services, and technology by U.S. persons and entities to persons located in or ordinarily resident in Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba.
  • For the purpose of these sanctions programs, the prohibition on exportation of services by U.S. persons would apply to the provision of online courses and issuance of certificates of mastery upon completion of an online course to persons located in or ordinarily resident in sanctioned countries, unless specifically or generally licensed.
  • While we will not comment on specific licenses, generally speaking, OFAC has a long history of licensing U.S. academic and educational institutions to engage in exchange programs in third countries as well as to provide certain in-country and online academic and educational training programs in the past.
  • Some programs, such as the Syria sanctions, contain a general license by which U.S. persons and entities are generally authorized to export educational services to persons located in Syria without the need for a specific license from OFAC.
  • Where not authorized by a general license or subject to a specific licensing policy set forth in our regulations, OFAC has a favorable licensing policy to authorize U.S. persons to engage in certain targeted educational, cultural and sports exchange programs, as well as research and humanitarian projects that are designed to benefit people in sanctioned countries. Of course, under a favorable licensing policy, U.S. persons need to come in and seek a license - without that, we cannot act.
  • OFAC, in consultation with the State Department will continue to consider requests by U.S. persons to engage in activities to provide online courses and certificates of mastery to persons located in or ordinarily resident in sanctioned countries.
The fifth bullet point sounds rather positive, but Coursera's optional fee for a certificate of completion might be a sticking point.

OFAC also suggested that I contact edX, which, like Coursera, provides online classes. An edX spokesman said they had never blocked their site, but had requested an OFAC license to allow access in the embargoed nations. The application process took seven months, but the license was granted and they remained open.

So far, it sounds like OFAC is open, but wants to consider each case separately, so requires a license application. I may be wrong, and will hopefully hear more from the blocked companies.

While edX succeeded in obtaining a license, the delay and effort seem inappropriate and the policy is vague enough to discourage potential service providers -- self-censorship by confusion. OFAC should streamline the license application process, but, more important, should clarify their regulations so companies like edX and Coursera could avoid the process entirely.

Stay tuned for feedback from the other companies.

ETECSA plans to offer Mobile Internet access and email

A brief post on CubaDebate says ETECSA will be offering mobile Internet access this summer.

But, there are no details. Where will the new service be available? What will it cost? What technology will it use?

ETECA attributes this modernization and extension of service to increased foreign exchange.  (They also reduced calling and texting rates recently -- I assume that is payments for service, not investment).

Does anyone know more about this planned offering?

The Hackathon for Cuba -- in Miami, not Havana

There will be a two day Hackathon for Cuba in Miami starting with a reception the evening of January 31 and getting down to work on February first. (The event is organized by the Miami Beach-based nonprofit Roots of Hope and with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and they hope to repeat it in New York and San Francisco.)

The Hackathon goal is to develop prototype programs that are well suited to Cuba -- software for a nation with slow, expensive wire-line connectivity and second generation cell phone infrastructure.

For example, there are smart phones in Cuba. They cannot be used for modern Internet access, but they can be used as stand-alone computers, perhaps connected to external peripherals. The Hackathon might produce some innovative stand alone applications for smartphones.

We might also see applications tailored to Cuba'a slow, $5 per hour Internet connectivity -- for example, programs to facilitate creating and replying to email or other messages offline and uploading and downloading them in compressed batches.

Regardless, since necessity is the mother of invention, we can hope for innovations that would be useful in Cuba or any other nation with poor Internet infrastructure. We might even see some novel solutions for busy executives travelling in "airplane mode."

I have argued in other posts, for example here and here, that the Cuban government's limited access policy is causing missed opportunities. (Cuban leaders understood this cost long ago).

The Hackathon for Cuba is a good thing, but I wish it were in Havana rather than Miami.
Update 1/31/2014

The Washington Post has an article on the Hackathon.


Update 2/4/2014

You can read the Hackathon coverage by the Miami Herald and WLRN TV.

The ground rules were that all entries had to be legal in both the US and Cuba, which led to the disqualification of a satellite-based entry.

The winners were email-based systems to use Twitter and to retrieve material from Wikipedia and the Web and a WiFi access point built around a Raspberry Pi.

Those email-based systems are a throwback to the earliest days of the Internet. One of the oldest, continuously operated email retrieval services is Bit-l, which has been run by Ing. Jorge Espresate X. at Infomed in Cuba for many years.

The good news from the Hackathon is that it has produced some interesting ideas. The bad news is that they are for tecnology that is obsolete in most of the world -- another indication of the price Cuba has paid for its antiquated Internet.


Update 2/8/2014

Christina, from Choose Digital, participated in the Hackathon and gives her impression and describes her app in this blog post.

Keeping Your Tax Identity Safe

Posted by Rob Mahini, Policy Counsel

Once upon a time, Tax Day meant pens and pencils, paper forms, and long waits at the post office. Now, the Internet makes tax day much simpler -- online software and e-Filing now allows everyone a much smoother Tax Day experience. Unfortunately, the Internet also makes something else easier: tax identity theft that allows scammers to do things like file for fraudulent tax refunds or apply for jobs.

As the FTC noted earlier this month, "identity theft has been the top consumer complaint to the FTC for 13 consecutive years, and tax identity theft has been an increasing share of the Commission’s identity theft complaints." In fact, tax ID theft accounted for more than 43 percent of the FTC's ID theft complaints, "making it the largest category of identity theft complaints by a substantial margin."

With this in mind, the FTC hosted events around the country last week as part of its Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, to educate consumers about the risks of tax identity theft and how to avoid becoming a victim. The IRS also released a video this month to educate taxpayers on what to do if they are victimized by tax ID theft.

At Google's Good To Know site, consumers can learn about the many ways that they can protect all of their data, including their SSN, tax forms, and other information that tax identity thieves are after. For example:
  • Don’t reply if you see a suspicious email, instant message or webpage asking for your personal or financial information. Identity thieves try to use these phishing techniques to steal your information such as your social security number or other tax info. 
  • If you see a message from someone you know that doesn’t seem like them, their account might have been compromised by a cyber criminal who is trying to con you into providing your SSN or other sensitive information. 
  • Don’t send your password via email, and don’t share your password with others -- thieves that gain access to your accounts can then steal your tax identity. Legitimate sites won’t ask you to send them your passwords via email, so don’t respond if you get requests for your passwords to online sites.

The ease and convenience of the Internet has helped simplify tax filing. And following these tips will help keep your tax information safe in the process.

Busting Bad Advertising Practices — 2013 Year in Review

Posted by: Mike Hochberg, Director, Ads Engineering

(Cross-posted from the Google AdWords Blog)

Advertising helps fund great web services and enables companies of all sizes to grow their businesses online. However, this economy can also attract bad actors that want to abuse online advertising tools for harmful or deceptive purposes.

We've allocated substantial technical, financial, and human resources to stopping bad advertising practices and protecting users on the web. Hundreds of our engineers, policy experts and others have dedicated their careers to this work.

Following up on our 2012 report, below is an overview of how we fought bad ads and bad ad-funded content in 2013.

Stopping more bad ads from fewer bad sources

We removed more than 350 million bad ads from our systems in 2013. To put that in perspective, if someone looked at each of these for one second, it would take them more than ten years to see them all. This was a significant increase from approximately 220 million ads removed in 2012. This trend has been consistent in the last several years and we attribute it to several factors, including: the growth of online advertising overall and constant improvement of our detection systems.

The number of advertisers we disabled, however, dropped from over 850,000 in 2012 to more than 270,000 in 2013. In part, we attribute this decline to scammers — counterfeiters, for example — being thwarted by our safety screens and searching for less-secure targets.

Counter-attacking counterfeiters

We continue to see positive results in our work to combat counterfeiters. Attempts to market counterfeit goods on AdWords decreased by 47% in 2012 and 82% in 2013. In parallel, the volume of complaints about these ads dropped by 85% in 2012 and by another 78% in 2013.

As these numbers have declined, we’re pleased to report that we’ve also banned fewer bad advertisers for counterfeit violations. Last year, we banned approximately 14,000 advertisers for trying to sell counterfeit goods — a decline of more than 80% compared to 2012.

Preventing good ads from funding bad content

Maintaining a healthy ads ecosystem isn’t just about stopping bad ads and advertisers; we closely monitor the sites and mobile apps that show our ads as well. Early last year, we outlined some of this work, with a particular focus on our efforts to stop scammy ad-funded software, like toolbars, that provides a poor user-experience.

By the end of 2013, we had blacklisted more than 200,000 total publisher pages, an encouraging decline from last year, and disapproved more than 3,000,000 attempts to join our AdSense network. We also removed more than 250,000 publisher accounts for various policy violations. This includes more than 5,000 account removals for violating our copyright policies, an increase of more than 25% compared to 2012.

Here’s a more complete overview of our work to bust bad advertising practices in 2013:

This is an ever-evolving and ongoing fight. Bad actors are relentless, often very sophisticated and will not rest on their laurels. But neither will we. Nothing is more important than the security of our users and we’ll continue to work tirelessly to keep them safe online.

Yoani Sánchez lists the ten most popular Android apps in Cuba

Cubans can't use their smartphones as high-speed Internet access devices, but they are using them as small computers -- accessing local databases, running office-like apps, editing photos, etc.

Yoani Sánchez has compliled a list ot the ten most popular Android apps in Cuba.

In a couple of years, we may all be docking our smartphones and using them as desktop computers when we are at home or work. Necesity is the mother of invention -- might we use Cuban apps when that time comes? What sort of apps will be be able to run on a fast 64-bit "phone" with 8GB or more memory?

Un método Cubano para lograr conectividad a internet

(Versión Inglés)

La infraestructura doméstica de conexión a internet en Cuba es una de las peores del mundo, y sus posibilidades de mejoría son ínfimas a causa del embargo de E.U, las políticas de control de acceso y de limitaciones al acceso, el poder de ETECSA, la falta de una base de técnicos y usuarios entrenados y en alta demanda, y la falta de capital. ¿Podría eliminarse de alguna manera estos obstáculos?

El embargo va a ser derogado eventualmente, y hay signos de que podría ser relativamente pronto. Mientras tanto, China y otros países están dispuestos a vender y negociar con Cuba.

Las políticas de control gubernamentales podrían cambiar. Cuando Cuba se unió a internet por primera vez, hubo un debate de alto nivel sobre “el dilema del dictador” - la percepción de internet como una amenaza política y cultural contra su potencial de mejorar la vida de las personas y la economía. Se tomó entonces la decisión de controlar internet y el acceso al mismo - pero esta situación no está tallada en piedra, podría revertirse.

¿Y sobre ETECSA? ¿Existe acaso alguna nación en la que el proveedor de telecomunicaciones (sea propiedad del gobierno o privado) no actúe en interés propio a detrimento de la población y la economía? Sospecho que la respuesta es “no”. No conozco a la administración actual de ETECSA, pero me sorprendería que fuera diferente al resto.

ETECSA pertenece conjuntamente al Ministerio de Informática y Comunicaciones y a la empresa RAFIN, SA. El Ministerio lógicamente es parte del gobierno y se somete a su voluntad política -pero las políticas y los líderes pueden cambiar-.

RAFIN es un asunto diferente. No sé cuál es su rol en la administración de ETECSA. Ni siquiera comprendo el rol de una S.A en una nación socialista. ¿Dónde obtuvieron el capital para comprar la parte de ETECSA que pertenecía a Telecom Italia? ¿Quiénes son los accionistas e inversores? ¿Comparten ellos las ganancias y pérdidas de ETECSA? ¿Obtienen un puesto en el consejo de administración -una voz en las decisiones ejecutivas y de políticas a aplicar-? Necesito ayuda de un economista en esta parte.

Una base de técnicos y usuarios entrenados llegará una vez que la conectividad sea útil, globalmente disponible, y abordable -llegara como consecuencia, no como requerimiento, para una internet moderna-.

Nos queda entonces la falta de capital. China jugó un papel activo en el financiamiento e instalación del cable submarino ALBA-1, y en ese entonces especulé que a lo mejor harian una inversión en la infraestructura doméstica, pero esto hasta el momento no ha sucedido.

La sabiduría convencional del Banco Mundial o de la Unión Internacional de Telecomunicaciones es que el camino para lograr el capital necesario para la conectividad es privatizar la industria de las telecomunicaciones y de los proveedores de servicios de internet (ISP), e invitar entonces a inversores extranjeros a construir la infraestructura y competir hasta cierto nivel mientras son controlados por una agencia reguladora – Privatización, Regulación y Competencia (PCR).

Raúl Castro anunció que el gobierno está trabajando en una nueva política de inversión extranjera, lo cual es de singular importancia para estimular el desarrollo económico y social del país. La ley se espera que esté aprobada en Marzo próximo. Falta ver si la nueva ley y la supuesta demanda atraerá o no a inversionistas mayores, pero incluso si sucediera, hay un problema con la estrategia PCR – no funciona bien.

Muchas naciones en desarrollo optaron por la estrategia PCR entre 1991 y 2008:

En el año 2009, observé los datos y concluí que "PCR tuvo un impacto pequeño sobre Internet durante los últimos diez años en naciones desarrolladas o en desarrollo." No he actualizado el artículo con datos consecutivos, pero nuestra experiencia en E.U muestra que la propiedad privada sobre los servicios de telecomunicaciones no garantiza la competencia, la eficiencia y el buen servicio, a pesar de las buenas intenciones de los reguladores y del congreso.

Necesitamos una solución Cubana.

Seria genial si Cuba pudiera permitirse comprar una infraestructura moderna de telecomunicaciones, con fibra óptica hasta las edificaciones y retroalimentación (backhaul) para comunicaciones móviles LTE (siglas en inglés para “evolución a largo plazo”), pero no puede, por lo que tenemos que pensar en soluciones a corto plazo más baratas. El resto de este artículo lo dedicaremos a especular sobre una posibilidad, una política descentralizada multi-satelital.

Varios años atrás, escribí dos artículos (aquí y aquí) abordando las tecnologías inalámbricas para la conectividad en países en desarrollo: plataformas enlazadas y no enlazadas de altitud elevada (HAPs), redes inalámbricas terrestres (WiMAX era esperanzadora en aquel entonces), constelaciones de satélites de órbita baja (LEO) y terminales de satélite de apertura muy pequeña (VSATs).

Google experimenta actualmente con HAPs, pero sin ninguna utilización significativa. Hasta donde conozco, nadie está estudiando los satélites LEO y WiMAX no se desarrolló como se había previsto. En la época en que se escribieron esos artículos, VSAT era la única opción para conectar áreas rurales en naciones como la India, pero las estaciones terrestres VSAT eran grandes, caras y lentas.

Desde aquel entonces, la tecnología ha progresado, y el mercado de consumidores para la conexión por satélite ha crecido. Proveedores estadounidenses como HughesNet y Viasat tienen 1 398 000 suscriptores entre los dos. A pesar de los largos tiempos de respuesta, he tenido video-conferencias fluidas con amigos que usan platos satelitales en zonas rurales de Brasil y Chile. Las antenas son pequeñas, los costos bajan, y la velocidad crece.

¿Qué pasaría si el gobierno cubano fomentara el uso de los satélites en lugar de prohibirlos?

El gobierno de Cuba ha dicho que autorizará agentes para la venta de tiempo de teléfono e internet. ¿Que pasaria si expandieran el programa para permitir a esos agentes a poseer y vender tiempo y servicios usando enlaces de internet por satélite –- de la misma forma que las “damas de teléfonos Grameen” en Bangladesh compraban teléfonos celulares para revender el tiempo de llamada?

Hoy, hay algunos puntos de satélite instalados ilegalmente en Cuba. Imaginemos 1000 platos de satélite legales, dispersos por toda la isla, suministrando acceso a internet y a llamadas VOIP (las cuales son ilegales hoy).

Si esta idea se tomara en consideración, imagino que ETECSA querría poseer las estaciones terrestres y establecer los precios. Eso garantizaría las ganancias y el control gubernamental sobre el acceso a Internet, pero sería una estrategia de corta visión. Permitir a los operadores de satélites ser propietarios de su equipamiento, crearía un grupo descentralizado, auto-controlado, de empresarios que aportarían esfuerzo e innovaciones al proyecto.

La situación en Cuba hoy es un recuerdo de lo que era Internet al final de los años 1980 en E.U. Se inventó TCP/IP y mostraba ser efectivo en las redes APRANet y CSNET. El potencial de la red era obvio para aquellos que la habían utilizado, pero el acceso estaba restringido a unas pocas organizaciones y personas.

En aras de conectar a más personas, la Fundación Nacional de Ciencia (National Science Fundation) estableció NSFNet. Ellos contrataron una infraestructura de conexión nacional (blackbone network), y ofrecieron fondos a todos los colegas y universidades para cubrir los costos de un enrutador (router) y de la conexión a la infraestructura nacional. También ofrecieron conexión a redes de educación e investigación en países en desarrollo. Cuando fue desactivado en Abril de 1995, NSFNet era la infraestructura de conexión global, enlazando 28 470 redes domésticas y 22 296 foráneas. (Nótese que Spring, el proveedor de conectividad para naciones en desarrollo, también suministraba conectividad a Cuba, a pesar del embargo)

El proyecto NSFNet en su totalidad costó al contribuyente de E.U $94.5 millones – una inversión pequeña con un retorno inestimable. Cubrir a Cuba con una sábana da platos satelitales tendría resultados similares.

La inversión de NSFNet fue altamente balanceada. Mientras que las universidades obtenían conexión gratuita a la red nacional, se esperaba que ofrecieran acceso para las facultades y los estudiantes. Colectivamente, las universidades invirtieron mucho más en las redes locales de sus campus, en entrenamiento y en personal, que lo que invirtió NSF en NSFNet. El enfoque descentralizado y la arquitectura "end-end" de la red empujaron tanto la formación de capitales como innovaciones a el borde de la red donde hubieron inversionistas y empresarios listo para participar.

¿Cuál sería el rol del gobierno Cubano en un mundo de acceso satelital descentralizado? Su tarea más importante sería la planificación de la capacidad y la negociación con las compañías suministradoras de comunicación por satélite para el ancho de banda. Ellos tendrían además que especificar, evaluar y comprar equipamiento para estaciones terrestres (algunas de los cuales podrían fabricarse en la isla).

Ellos deberían también tomar la delantera en el desarrollo de software que opere eficientemente cuando no hay conexión, usando compresión automática de datos y trasfiriendo los mismos cuando el usuario se conecte. Este tipo de software sería útil en cualquier país con ancho de banda limitado, no solo en Cuba. Dado que la necesidad es la madre de la invención, podríamos incluso llegar a ver soluciones novedosas para ejecutivos ocupados viajando en “modo avión”.

El gobierno debería también apoyar a los operadores de satélite ofreciéndoles préstamos bancarios que ayuden con el costo inicial del equipamiento, facilitando entrenamiento y compartiendo experiencia y “mejores prácticas”. Uno puede imaginarse un banco de micro-finanzas controlado por el gobierno que ofrezca préstamos, y el gobierno pagando los costos de operación de una asociación de operadores de satélite. Como sucedió con NSFNet, el gobierno podría irse alejando de estas actividades una vez que la red sea estable y auto-sostenida.

Por supuesto el sistema de satélites es solo un paso intermedio, a largo plazo será desplazado en favor de una infraestructura de fibra óptica moderna. El sistema de satélites pavimentaría el camino hacia ese objetivo, al crear demanda y habilidades en los usuarios. Los enlaces de satélite servirían de guía al gobierno sobre como asignar sus escasos recursos de fibra óptica -regiones de alta demanda se conectarían primero que las demás-. (Google siguió una estrategia similar al priorizar barrios cuando instalaron su red Giga-bit en la ciudad de Kansas, - áreas con muchos suscriptores fueron las primeras en conectarse-).

Nótese que he sugerido que el gobierno sea responsable por la infraestructura de fibra óptica, pero no por proveer el servicio de internet. Deberían ver la infraestructura de conexión como si fueran carreteras – proveer una infraestructura para ser usada por tractores, autobuses y autos que tienen propietarios independientes. China siguió una estrategia de lanzamiento de internet similar, con organizaciones del gobierno construyendo las infraestructuras de red que para finales de 1999 estaban siendo usadas por más de 500 proveedores de servicio de internet.

Recordemos que las universidades de NSFNet aportaron sus propias redes locales. Uno puede entonces imaginarse redes locales a nivel de ciudad o de pueblos, enlazando estaciones terrestres en la ciudad. Como en el caso de NSF, el diseño y la inversión en tales redes deberían ser locales. En este caso, viene a mi recuerdo las redes de distribución de TV “hechas en casa”, en las que la gente usa su propio cable coaxial para conectar casas y otros locales a una estación central terrestre.

Al inicio de esta publicación, expuse una lista de barreras en el camino a la conectividad en Cuba. He presentado una propuesta de arrancada de bajo costo para una conectividad que no requiere inversión extranjera.

Esto deja entonces las barreras políticas. Tal vez hay esperanza. Como se menciona antes, E.U ha manifestado un deseo de cambio de política y Raúl Castro a llamado a los cubanos a adoptar las reformas económicas “sin prisa, pero sin pausa.”

Un estímulo más específico viene del primer Vice-Presidente Miguel Díaz-Canel, quien dijo: "Hoy, con el desarrollo de las tecnologías de la información, de las redes sociales, de la informática y la Internet, prohibir algo es casi una quimera imposible. No tiene sentido. (...) Por tanto, nosotros constantemente tenemos que estar dialogando."

Reconozco la ironía de proponer que el gobierno adopte una tecnología que llevó al encarcelamiento de Alan Gross y otros. Revertir la legislación sobre comunicación satelital requeriría coraje político, pero también brindaría al gobierno un argumento poderoso contra las acusaciones que pesan sobre él y estarían persiguiendo una solución cubana , una en la que Internet es operado como un servicio al pueblo y la sociedad, no al gobierno o a compañías de telecomunicaciones.

Traducción de un amigo de la Internet cubana.


Una persona que respondió a mi post menciono que no es necesario que la política de los EE UU cambia para este propuesta tenga éxito. Afirma que en Abril 2009 el gobierno Americano aprobó la venta de satélites para servicios Internet.

Revise lo que la administración en "Reaching out to the Cuban People" especificaba y aprendí que autorizaba cable de fibra óptica y satélites de comunicación que conectaban Cuba con EE UU -- explícitamente para radio y televisión, pero no mencionaba la Internet.

Le pregunté al Departamento del Tesoro, si un proveedor de Internet por satélite podría obtener una licencia para servir a una cuenta de Cuba. Me contestaron que tendrían que revisar para darme una respuesta.


Satélite ISP IPSTAR dice que han conectado más de 26.000 escuelas en Tailandia, lo que permite a más de 2.000.000 estudiantes el acceso a los materiales de aprendizaje en línea y aplicaciones basadas en IP. Se conectan a las LAN en las escuelas y el aprendizaje "cafés" y se centran en la entrega de matrial enseñanza. Este programa parece ser relativamente centralizado y muy específicas, sino que es un ejemplo de un proyecto de conectividad por satélite patrocinado por el gobierno.

Aquí está un breve vídeo IPSTAR en la educación y otras aplicaciones:

Global Network Initiative sets important precedent for transparency

Posted by: Ross LaJeunesse, Global Head of Free Expression and International Relations, and Lewis Segall, Senior Counsel

Five years ago, when we became founding members of the Global Network Initiative (GNI), we agreed that outside assessors would review how we’re doing against GNI’s Principles on Freedom of Expression and Privacy. GNI brings together diverse stakeholders to address the risks to a free and open Internet, and conducting these assessments is an important part of the organization's mandate.

This morning, GNI released its first ever Company Assessment Report. The organization used independent assessors to look into whether the GNI’s three founding companies -- Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft -- are upholding GNI’s principles in practice. After reviewing specific cases on how Google is implementing the principles, the board found that we are compliant and working to protect freedom of expression and privacy online.

Even though it can be uncomfortable to open up to outside scrutiny, we believe the assessment is a useful model for companies, NGOs, academics, and others working together to assess how companies respond to government requests related to human rights.

Today’s report also supports the organization’s other primary task, advocacy -- ensuring that governments everywhere protect privacy and free expression online. If you’re interested in learning more about how Google responds to government demands for user information and content removal, check out our Transparency Report.

Vargas Llosa review of "Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground"

Mario Vargas Llosa, an important Peruvian novelist who began as a liberal and later ran as a conservative candidate for president, has written a review of the forthcoming (February 18) book "Now I Know Who My Comrades Are: Voices from the Internet Underground," by Emily Parker, a former journalist at the Wall Street Journal and New York Times.

The book reviews the role of the Internet and social media revolutions in China, Cuba and Russia, and Vargas Llosa says:
If Parker’s testimony is accurate, and I believe it is, China is the country, of the three here profiled, where the digital revolution has produced the biggest changes and seemingly unstoppable momentum. Cuba, for its part, is the one where the changes have been the least significant and most vulnerable to reversal.
The title of this book reminds me of the first example of politically oriented citizen journalism that I know of -- the use of Usenet during the Soviet coup attempt of 1991. The Net was used to bring information into and out of Russia and to spread information within Russia. One could read statements like this from Nizhniy Novgorod:
Yesterday at 17:00 a rally in support of Yeltsin was held; regional deputies participated. Today at 17:00 hours there will be a rally in the city center where a strike committee will be formed ... The atmosphere is calm in the city, there are no troops to be seen.
or this from Kiev:
It is relatively quite in Kiev as it all seems like a silly joke from here. On top of this, relevant information is not being supplied on the TV. I was on the central square at 12:30. A group of about 100 people was discussing the news.
China and Cuba made their decisions with respect to control of the Internet in the mid 1990s -- the Chinese opted for a widespread, controlled Internet and the Cubans, mindful of the fall of the Soviet Union, opted to control the spread of and access to the Internet. Where would we be today if Cuba had followed the Chinese lead?

Update 3/8/2014

Emily Parker was interviewed about her book at the New American Foundation: