Google libre: Cuba to allow Google servers on island

13 Dec 2016

Cuban flag hanging over a street. Image: Julian Peters Photography/Shutterstock

Following decades of hostility between the US and Cuba, the Communist state has now taken its détente another step further by allowing Google to install servers in the country.

Even before the death of Cuba’s iconic leader Fidel Castro in November, the country’s current head of state Raúl Castro had begun the process of harmonising relations between the island and its US neighbour.

With many of the harsh trade embargoes now eased between the two countries, American tech businesses are beginning to see new opportunities to expand into relatively untouched region.

One such company is Google, which has agreed a deal with ETECSA, Cuba’s state telecoms company, to install a number of servers across the country to improve its internet speeds.

According to Reuters, Eric Schmidt, chair of Google’s parent company Alphabet, travelled to meet the Cuban government to sign the deal that would bring Cuba into its Google Global Cache network.

This initiative installs servers in countries to allow quicker access to Google services like YouTube and Gmail.

A Google statement said: “This deal allows ETECSA to use our technology to reduce latency by caching some of our most popular high bandwidth content like YouTube videos at a local level.”

Internet access still limited

However, while Google’s services will see a noticeable increase in speed, the country’s overall internet infrastructure lags far behind many countries in the west.

While services like Netflix have appeared in Cuba for the first time, strict internet censorship and severely limited access through expensive internet cafés mean that only a small percentage of the population have access.

Schmidt, commenting last year on the state of Cuba’s internet, described it as being “stuck in the 1990s” following a previous visit to the country.

However, minor improvements have been made in the past year with censorship still remaining, but the number of internet access points increasing.

While Obama was credited with repairing relations between Cuba and the US, it remains to be seen how the relationship will continue under a Donald Trump presidency starting next January.

Cuban flag hanging over a street. Image: Julian Peters Photography/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic