Cuba & Internet access

Lueko Willms Lueko.Willms at
Wed Jul 9 00:29:42 MDT 2003

 in reply to: 

> # Subject: Cuba & Internet access
> # From: "Eli Stephens" <elishastephens at>
> # Date: Tue, 08 Jul 2003 19:11:41 -0700

>  According to government figures 
> released in March 2001 [Rather a dated reference - ES], 
> only 60,000 of the island's 11 million inhabitants have 
> been granted email accounts, and less 
> than half of those can send messages internationally.

   The story behind the story is the number between those 60'000 and
11 million -- that about only 500'000 telephone lines exist on the
island (that is about the figure for the year referenced above,

   Let the number of phone lines be somewhat higher, so that amounts
to a relationship of about 1:10 for email accounts to phone lines. 

   You see the statistical trickery of leaving out some important
facts or putting the wrong entities in relationship to each other. 

   Living in the USA, one can easily take for granted the universal
presence of telephones everywhere. But please bear in mind that on
the island of Manhattan alone there are more phone lines installed
than on the whole African continent (at least it was like this a few
years ago). There are vast parts of humanity who do not even have
electricity in their homes. 

   Besides the limited capacity of the national communications
network, the country cannot afford unlimited bandwith connecting to
the international Internet.  

   Cuba is making big efforts to build up the telephone network,
digitizing the exchanges, laying new lines, e.g. a new national fiber
optic trunc line along the Carretera Central which will vastly expand
the capacity for long distance calls. 

   The US blockade makes this task quite difficult, since the country
cannot buy from US suppliers like Lucent (former Bell) or Cisco. US
pressure had forced out the first international partner in the
telephone joint venture, a Mexican company. Now an Italian company is
the partner. 

   At the same time, Cuba is setting priorities. The priorities are
not set by blind market forces, but by conscious political decisions.
I'm not familiar with concrete explanations and reasoning especially
in relationship to telecommunications, but there are some indications
everybody can read. 

   Cuba has now opened the third nationwide TV channel, the
educational channel. 
   Schools even in out-of-the-way hamlets are equipped with TV sets,
computers, VCRs and solar panels to provide the electricity for those

   All schools shall get at least one computer room so that all
children can learn to use them. 

   The national network of "Joven Club de Computación" (JCC) is
already 15 years old; in all provinces and all bigger cities those
clubs provide free access to computers for young (and also old). 

   The scientific research institutions need priority for access to
international sources of information and scientific exchange. 

   "InfoMed" provides information services especially for hospitals
and doctors. 

   The tourism industry needs telecommunications for reservation
systems, and it earns the international currencies which pay among
other for expansion of the telecommunication network for private

   Finally listen to Fidel Castro praising the Internet, e.g. in his
interview with Clarin in Argentina. 

   But should poor Cuba cede to the market forces and put their
important social and economic projects on the back burner in favor of
spam mail and porn lines? 

   I do not ask everybody to applaud each and every decision of the
Cuban government as the greatest thing since the invention of sliced
bread, I don't it either, but just please bear in mind the material
constraints and the decision to build a new society "con todos, y
para el bien de todos", as Martí said: "with all, and for the good of

Lüko Willms 
/ Lueko.Willms at 

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