In a surprising show of sincerity, the U.S. government has just admitted that it is Washington that is blocking Cuban internet access. The Department of Justice has recommended that the Federal Communications Commission deny a permit for the island to hook up to the undersea cable which connects the Caribbean countries to the North American mainland.
The argument is ridiculous. It alleges that there is supposedly a danger in Cuba’s relationships with other “foreign adversaries” like China or Russia who could use the island as a gateway for hacking the U.S. web. This amounts to treating those who read these recommendations as children, to put it mildly.
The Americas Region Caribbean Ring System network, which stretches 32 kilometers (about 20 miles) from Havana and has been activated for more than two decades, connects to the internet of 15 countries on the continent at 24 anchor points. The majority of these countries have smooth relationships with the “foreign adversaries” to which Washington refers.
No one connects to the internet by saying some magic words. It requires at least three conditions: the telecommunications network; computers or electronic devices that will interact with their peers around the world; and a culture of using these technologies. More than other places, if you live on an island, you need undersea cables to link to the continental networks. In fact, 99% of the data traffic in the world, on solid land or not, travels via undersea cables, most of them fiber optic, with a total length of more than a million kilometers (about 621,000 miles).
The internet was originally thought of as a network for the transmission of information along alternative pathways in order to guarantee the rapid flow of data. It came into being in response to the order issued by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, after the October Crisis, also known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, which demonstrated the vulnerability of unidirectional command and control systems in a nuclear attack situation. However, network redundancy today has more limitations than when the internet first began because almost all fiber optic cables lead to the United States, where the nerve center of the “network of networks” is located.
As a result of this unbalanced structure of the cables that make up the internet, any information that is transmitted from Latin America to Europe, even if it is transmitted from local servers in Patagonia, almost always passes through Miami. In addition, the large fiber-optic pipes that cross the oceans are the property of corporations with links to the intelligence services, as Edward Snowden’s revelations showed.
In other words, it is not Cuba that has a long and documented tradition of hacking, espionage and internet control. In fact, a report of a joint investigation published last September by China’s National Cybersecurity Center and the internet security company Qihoo 360 Security Technology Inc. accused the U.S. National Security Agency of having directed more than 10,000 cyberattacks against China, with the theft of 140 gigabytes of significant data.
It’s impossible to swallow the fairy tale of Cuba as a cyber security threat under these conditions. What is relevant here is that the U.S. Department of Justice has admitted for the first time in an official communication that Washington is blocking connection to the undersea cable. Because of this, it may perhaps someday be recognized that the impossibility of acquiring cyber technology and the great difficulties in accessing digital services are also among Washington’s many blockades of Cuba.
Since 1996 — and thanks to an infamous law known as the Torricelli Act, or the Cuban Democracy Act — the connection of the island to the internet has been possible, but only to access information, because there are unfair limitations on use by Cubans. It’s not possible to view Google Earth here, or to use the Zoom videoconferencing system, or to download free software from Microsoft, or to get international domain names which appear to promote tourism to Cuba, just to mention some of the more than 200 blocked services and applications. When internet service providers detect access from Cuba, whether they are in California, Madrid, Paris or Toronto, the internet service providers funnel Cuban users to a location where they are advised that “you live in a prohibited country.”
We almost appreciate the public recommendation of the Department of Justice blocking the Cuban connection to the undersea cable. Maybe someday, on that path of free and open negotiations, they will come to recognize the other atrocities they are committing against us.
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