Cuba Builds the Internet It Needs

 Professionals from several sectors, representatives of the civil society and local governments debated in Cuba on an Internet to be better.

The international panorama is today, as it almost always is, very complex; the digital panorama is also complex, a reflection, although mediatized, of the first one.

Amid such varied and difficult scenario, Cubans meet since June 25th until today to come up with an Internet with social justice and for the sustainable human development.

Consistent with the slogan of the meeting, that was the exhortation made by María Esther Alfonso Suárez, First vice-president of the Cuban Group of Computer Experts (UIC for its acronym in Spanish) and Executive President of the organizing committee of the I National Forum for Internet Governance, during its opening, at the Conventions Palace of the Cuban capital.

"This event –said also the official from UIC - has become an opportunity to bring together government, academic and research communities, managerial and non- state sectors, technical community and the civil society, to meditate on the best use in this strategic resource”.

Alfonso Suárez added that the use of Internet must be fully compatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and with the International Right.

Sponsored by the Cuban Association of the United Nations, the UIC, the Cuban Group of Journalists, the Cuban Association of Social Communicators, the Union of Jurists from Cuba, the National Association of Economists and Accountants from and the Association of Educators from Cuba, this is the first time Cuba organizes a National Forum of this type.

Since 2006 have taken place international meetings on the governance of Internet as a result of the summoning made by the General Secretary of the United Nations to create a platform that every year welcomed several debates regarding good policies and practices related to Internet.

Putting within everyone’s reach good guidelines that help steer the navigation and any other interaction with Internet aimed at the human and social growth, always accompanied by ethics and culture. This is the ultimate purpose of this meeting which had as introduction similar events in all domestic provinces.

Just in the same way in which the Cuban society is unique - in a world ruled by selfishness, individualism and the lack of civility -, its behavior in and ways of acting in cyberspace must be also unique.

In a world where globalization blurs at times the identities, feelings of belonging and many other features that tells apart each country and each individual from the other, it’s not a simple objective to also reaffirm the course in the so-called highway of information, and disinformation too.

Therefore, the adviser for the Ministry of Communications, Juan Alfonso Fernández González, was clear during the conference he delivered at the National Forum what was the Governance of Internet.

Fernández González specified that "It’s the development and the application on behalf of governments, private sector and the civil society, in the functions concerning them respectively, of principles, norms, rules, decision-making procedures and common programs that configure the evolution and use of Internet."

He next asserted that the Internet we wish for and need must be built with everyone’s help.

On the other hand, the Minister of Communications, Jorge Luis Perdomo, quoted that Internet is influenced by cultural trends that cannot be ignored and urged to keep on developing Cuban projects, platforms of services and domestic contents, while raising the culture of citizens on cyber security.

"Each country is entitled to be proactive in the development of the computer science society, focused on the individual, but with responsibility. Cuba will continue increasing the Internet access to citizens and institutions to maximize the opportunities it brings and guarantee the rights of Cubans to enjoy that environment, deal with the risks and challenges", he said.

There are many challenges, especially if we understand that Internet is also the arena of a thousand battles where are made more than evident the blunt attempts of the U.S. for blurring each of our conquests and suffocate us with shortages.

Let’s just remember that the U.S. has just approved more than 32 million dollars for the subversion in Cuba. This is the new budget for those goals during fiscal year 2020 that goes from October 1st, 2019 until September 30th, 2020. Undoubtedly, part of them will finance many unhealthy attempts in the cyberspace, probably lead by the Cuba Internet Task Force of the North American Department of State.

Nevertheless, while this happens and amid a blockade that tightens every time, next with the coming into force of the Title III and IV of the Helms-Burton Act, Cuba has already a history in Internet since in year 2000 started the access to it, prioritized sectors in our economic and social panorama came first.

At present, 60% of Cubans have Internet access; they do this for free from jobs and schools centers. Also, the possibility of Internet access from mobiles has increased connectivity since last December. Connectivity has increased so much that out of the 5, 5 million mobile lines in Cuba, 2, 5 millions of them have access to mobile data.

On top of the above we must say that other ways of navigation like Wi-Fi areas have also increased, with a total of 1042 Internet access areas.

There are also more than two million permanent Nauta accounts and more than 87 000 houses connected by Nauta Hogar.

The peculiarities that distinguish Cuba’s actions in Internet ratify that it has been followed the goal present in the slogan of this I National Forum of Cyber Space Governance: Internet: Social Justice and the Sustainable Human Development.

Cuba Ready to Begin Mobile Internet Services

The start day for this service is close in the Island, where at present there are more than 1 400 radio bases, 520 of them have a 3G coverage. By yearend the Nauta Hogar service would have reached about 52 thousand houses in the entire country.

All technical needs are already created in Cuba to provide mobile Internet services with quality and security, asserts Tania Velázquez, Vice-president for Business and Technology Strategy of the Cuban Telecommunications Company (ETECSA).

At the television program Round Table recently broadcasted about The Computerization of the Cuban Society, the ETECSA official said that it was an important premise to have the necessary technical needs. Therefore, “we ratify that in a near date we will be able to announce in this very program the premiere date for this service to begin”, she said.

Explaining a bit further the infrastructure created, she mentioned the platforms, the fundamental nodes of the network, as well as the radio base coverage. Radio bases in Cuba are more than 1 400 in the entire country, 520 of them have 3G coverage.

She explained that in the capital the coverage is almost complete, as well as in the main cities of the provinces, and they keep advancing in the rest of the country.

Velázquez remembered that in a prior Round Table ETECSA’s Executive President, Mayra Arevich had announced that in 2018 the commercialization of Internet service would begin in mobiles. This have been a priority for the company in the last two years.

As part of the preparation for the beginning of that necessary and demanded service, the vice-president invited the population to stay alert for some advice ETECSA will disclose in the next few days for a better use of the mobile network regarding navigation.

Among new things in the last years she mentioned the creation of the Nauta Hogar service. She reminded its beginnings in 2016 with a trial test in two districts of Old Havana and its ulterior development and expansion by late 2017. She said that at present more than 37 thousand Nauta Hogar services are working, 22 000 out of them installed this year.

She underlined that installation rate has increased and the company’s purpose is that this year it reaches around 52 thousand of these services in the entire country. To attain this purpose have been prioritized the places where a better infrastructure quality exist in order to guarantee the necessary excellence to the population that hires the service.

Nauta hogar is present today in 136 domestic municipalities, in 22% of the districts. A recent poll ran by ETECSA aimed at the level of satisfaction of clients with this service showed that “there is a quite good acceptance in this regard, although there are a few complaints regarding the prices, and reaching more places”, she explained.

Tania referred that two recommendations keep appearing: to encourage the recharge from abroad for this service –something the company is working on right now and that in coming months they will announce how to set it up, she said - and the selling of modems that can be used in a wireless environment, something that has already begun, she specified.

At the beginning of her talk, the vice-president remembered that telephone lines in the country, reach the total of 6,5 millions for a 58% of telephone density. Of the whole of lines, 5 millions 200 thousand are mobiles.

“We have had a huge leap forward in mobile telephony in the last years to get to more people with a more practical infrastructure”, she highlighted. More than a million 500 thousand Nauta mail users log in using their mobiles.

In addition, there are more than a million 700 thousand Nauta accounts which is one of the means – she explained – through which people access Internet.

Besides the services, Velázquez mentioned a group of projects developed in the last years among which is included the collective navigation rooms. If in year 2013 they were 118, located in the main cities of the provinces, right now they are up to 1 713 of those public areas accessing Internet, today present in every Cuban municipalities.

Wifi areas must be added on top of all these efforts. They surpass the 700 and thay have represented a mayor leap in the topic of connectivity. Furthermore they have earned great popular acceptance.

ETECSA has created more than 200 Wi-Fi rooms as an alternative, with greater comfort that the outdoor alternative, and also the more than 700 rooms located in third-party areas; that is, airports, hotels, and also health facilities, cultural, recreational centers and others.

Velázquez qualified as very important the work done in the last two years to take connectivity to entities, organizations, companies and to the different sectors of society to which communications play a key role in its informatization.

In this regard she commented on heavy investments deign made for the fiber optic infrastructure. This can improve the bandwidth and quality of connections of bodies like the ministries of Education and Higher Education, Justice and Banking System, among many others.

Also, Tania remembered among the breakthroughs that the entire enterprise data systems has strengthened, where companies can also host their contents and, among other possibilities, manage their own services in a safe environment.

Cubasi Translation Staff / Amilkal Labañino Valdés

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