HAVANA, Cuba – The United States has had a complex and often contentious relationship with Cuba. The two countries have had diplomatic relations since the late 1800s, but tensions have risen and fallen over the years. The United States has a long-standing economic embargo against Cuba that has been in place since 1960, which has limited trade and economic ties between the two countries. Additionally, the United States has imposed various restrictions on travel to Cuba for American citizens.
In 2020, The Trump Administration reversed the open relations policy initiated by the Obama Administration in 2014, reversing the opening of the US Embassy, banning US cruises and private flights and other measures.
The current US administration under Joe Biden has show interest in restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba and reopening the US Embassy again, but it remains to be seen how this will play out in the near future. As a result, there are many aspects of Cuban life and infrastructure that we know little about.
As of 2021, the availability of fiber optic infrastructure in Cuba was limited and it was primarily used for government and enterprise purposes. There have been reports of efforts to expand the fiber optic network in the country, but it is not clear to what extent these efforts have been successful or when they will be completed. The Cuban government has been investing in infrastructure improvements, including internet access and telecommunications, but progress has been slow due to economic constraints and lack of foreign investment. Access to the internet in Cuba is also heavily restricted by the government, which limits the potential benefits of improved infrastructure.
As of this week, it appears as though there is reason to be hopeful about a more open Cuban. The Ministry of Communications has announced that efforts are underway to establish a new international fiber optic cable, known as Arimao. This new cable is expected to increase and diversify the island’s international connectivity. The Ministry reports that the linking process and future tests are currently in progress, following the completion of the physical laying of the cable across the sea between Martinique and the province of Cienfuegos in central Cuba. However, Telecommunications Director, Alejandro Ruiz Douglas, of Mincom has stated that the terrestrial part of the project remains to be completed, as well as the integration of the equipment and systems at the interconnected points.
In December 2022, ETECSA (Cuban Telecommunications Company S.A.) and Orange S.A. (a French company) reached an agreement to install a submarine cable that would help meet Cuba’s internet and broadband connection needs. The 2,500-kilometer Arimao cable reached land on January 10 in Martinique, after its installation began at the Tricontinental Port of Cienguegos in Cuba.
How would an open internet potentially change the relationship between Cuba and the United States
An open internet in Cuba could potentially change the relationship between the United States and Cuba in a number of ways:
- Improved communication: An open internet would allow for improved communication between the people of the United States and Cuba, which could help to build bridges and foster greater understanding between the two nations.
- Increased trade and investment: An open internet would make it easier for businesses in the United States to connect with their counterparts in Cuba, which could lead to increased trade and investment between the two countries.
- Greater access to information: An open internet would give people in Cuba greater access to information, including news and information from the United States, which could help to increase their understanding of the United States and its culture.
- More opportunities for civil society: An open internet would allow for greater freedom of expression and the ability for civil society to organize and connect online, which could lead to greater citizen empowerment and could help to promote human rights and democracy in Cuba.
- Diplomatic relations: The United States government may be more willing to establish and maintain diplomatic relations with Cuba if the country demonstrates progress in areas such as press freedom, human rights and internet access.
Only time will tell, but without projects like the Arimao fiber optic cable line project Cuba will only remain cut off from much of the world.