February 7, 2008
Agence France Press
HAVANA (AFP) — Cuba will continue to limit Internet access even after a fiber optic cable linking the island with Venezuela comes online in 2010, a top official said.
The new cable is 1,550 kilometers (960 miles) long and will dramatically increase the island's level of connectivity, according to officials. "We believe that the most responsible policy is to privilege collective access" to the Internet, said Boris Moreno, deputy minister of computer science and communication. Nevertheless, there is a desire for "larger number of citizens to have Internet access," technical and economic conditions allowing, Moreno told the daily Juventud Rebelde. But he warned that the new fiber optic cable "will not necessarily decrease the price the country pays for connection to international networks." Because of the US trade embargo, Cuba connects to the Internet via satellite. The government says the limited bandwidth forces them to "prioritize" Internet access for "social use" purposes, with universities, companies and research centers prioritized.
The US embargo bans Cuban access to underwater Internet cables, the closest of which runs from Miami to Cancun, Mexico, a mere 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Havana. Dissidents say the government's true goal is to control access to information. Moreno said Cuba, with a population of around 11.4 million, has 1.4 million Internet users, and that by the end of 2008 there were 630,000 computers, a 23 percent increase over 2007. In July, the head of the US interest section in Havana, Michael Parmly, said that Washington would allow US companies to connect Cuba to their underwater cables. "The only thing that is missing is for the Cuban government to lift its restrictions, loose its fear and begin to trust its own people," he said.