Internet freedom in Cuba

Cuba internetCuba boasts one of the most tightly-controlled Internet environments in the world. The cost of service can be prohibitive for many residents of Cuba, the connections are typically very slow compared to other areas of the world, and censorship is rampant. The penetration rate remains below 30%, but things have slowly started to improve in recent years. Much of the country’s lack of progress where the Internet is concerned can be directly attributed to the US embargo.

History of Cuba

Modern Cuban history begins with the Cuban Revolution which lasted from 1953-1959. It was this revolution which installed Fidel Castro as Cuba’s penultimate leader and created the Cuba we know today. Castro is perhaps best remembered for developing a contentious relationship with the United States which persists to this day.

The United States severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 and imposed a trade embargo the following year. As of July 2013, the commercial embargo still exists. Subsequently, the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban Missile Crisis further eroded the relationship between the two nations. Matters are further complicated by the presence of many Cuban immigrants in the United States and Cuba’s close proximity to the Southern US.

Internet in Cuba

Cuba suffers from a poor telecommunications infrastructure which has greatly impeded the progress of the Internet throughout the country. Many blame the lack of Internet development on the US embargo, which prevents the presence of many US-based telecommunications companies.

The average monthly salary in Cuba is roughly the equivalent of $20 US dollars, which makes the Internet unaffordable for many residents of the country. Only 25 % or so of residents had Internet access in their homes in 2012, and the cost of using the Internet in cafes is exorbitant. One hour of access costs approximately $5-$7 for the international network.

Internet filtering in Cuba

Internet censorship in Cuba is rampant, with the government enacting tight controls on what users can access. Some ranking organizations have proclaimed Cuba to be an “Internet Enemy”, and the government is reported to use sophisticated software in order to monitor Internet traffic. Connections in the country are routed through a proxy server which gives the government access to usernames and passwords.

The types of websites blocked by Cuba are literally too numerous to list, but here are a few:

  • News websites. It is virtually impossible to access news websites, especially those based in the United States, in Cuba.
  • Political blogs. Blogs which criticize the Cuban regime are routinely suppressed.
  • Media services. Many social networks are blocked, making it hard for Cubans with family in the US to remain in contact.

Every piece of information published on the Internet in Cuba must be approved by the National Registry of Serial Publications.

Unblocking websites in Cuba

Because of the US embargo, travel to Cuba by US residents is mostly forbidden. Even so, Cubans in the US might consider purchasing a VPN account for their relatives in Cuba. Expatriates from other nations who allow travel to Cuba will also find a VPN an absolute necessity if they wish to retain any type of normal Internet access in Cuba.

Many bloggers have emerged in Cuba who are using new media to accurately portray life inside the country. In many cases, these bloggers are required to smuggle out their blog posts to those who can use embassy connections to get them published. It is beneficial for these individuals to also consider the use of a VPN for their Internet use.

Of course, US and UK-only media services such as Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer are not available in Cuba without the use of a VPN.

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