Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Google satellites potentially a challenge to totalitarian rule

"Between the cable and the wall! So is the governmentt of Cuba with Google satellites to give Internet to users who do not have access." ... "Official spokesperson said we'll have Internet at home by end of 2014. I think it will be before that with Google Satellites :-)" - Yoani Sanchez, over twitter on June 26, 2013

First four google satellites launched to provide internet to remote locations
As has been the case for the past 35 years with the founding of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights inside of Castro's prisons, change is taking place in Cuba despite the best laid plans of the Castro dictatorship. The Committee to Protect Journalists in 2011 listed the Cuban totalitarian regime as one of the online oppressors that uses the denial of access as their chief mean of controlling the internet..

The latest evidence for this is to be found with regards to the internet and cell phones. Cuba has the lowest internet and cell phone coverage in the hemisphere. Nevertheless, inventive Cubans have found the way to circumvent government controls and get access, however limited , to both.

The Cuban government and its agents of influence try to blame economic sanctions for their policy of limiting and controlling information but the facts do not back them up.

President Obama on April 13, 2009 directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce to take the needed steps to:
  • Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.
  • License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into roaming service agreements with Cuba’s telecommunications service providers.
  • License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.
  • License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba.
  • Authorize the donation of certain consumer telecommunication devices without a license.
It was the Cuban government that showed no interest in a fiber-optic cable linking the United States and Cuba in 2009 not the Cuban embargo. Instead it went with a fiber-optic cable linking Cuba and Venezuela. Meanwhile internet access has not improved for the average Cuban.

Now officials are announcing that this is going to change, but it is interesting to note that the news arrives at the same time that Google has launched satellites to bring inexpensive internet to people in remote areas, including Cuba.

The regime is no doubt trying to figure out how to jam the Google satellites, or restrict the content that reaches Cubans while at the same time waging a cyberwar against what it perceives as its ideological adversaries. Perhaps one way to do it is to finally allow regular Cubans to enjoy improved internet connectivity via the cable from Venezuela that they have firm control over. Although, the regime may have to abandon the its chief strategy of denying Cubans access to internet they have at least nine other tactics used by other repressive regimes to limit the internet's liberating potential: web blocking, precision censorship, infrastructure control, cyber attacks on exile run sites, malware attacks, internet kill switches, detaining bloggers, violence against online journalists, and criminalizing uncensored access to internet ( ask Alan Gross about that last one.)

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