Freelist hosts a couple of Cuban email lists -- create one of your own?
If you have an idea for a list of your own, check out Freelists.
Freelists.org hosts Internet mailing lists at no cost. (They ask for donations on their site). Freelist uses an open source server called Ecartis, which appears to have a command interface similar to the popular Listserv (which has been around since 1986).
Freelists host over 11,000 lists, two of which pertain to Cuba and the Internet judging by their names: Cubacel and Emprendedorescubanos.
The Cubacel welcome message says it is for discussion of Cubacel and its network and asks people stick to the topic of mobile networks, post plain text messages, not HTML, and only attach files like .pdfs and images when necessary and to compress them if you do. (This feels so 1980s).
I subscribed to Cubacel about four hours ago, and have seen one user ask when 4G might come to Cuba and receive an answer that trials using 1800 Mhz Band 3 had been run near the Miramar Business Center, but that did not give a clue to if and when 4G would be available.
Another person said they had heard that ETECSA was limiting 3G roaming transfer speed to 300 kbps and asked what speeds people were getting, but so far no one has replied. (I've received reports of much faster service).
I've not yet received any messages from the Emprendedorescubanos list.
You can read a bit more about user's experience with and opinion of the Cubacel list here.
If you have an idea for a list of your own, check Freelists out -- it takes only a minute to create a list. (Let me know if you do).
Home ADSL is less important than other interim, stopgap measures like WiFi parks and El Paquete Semanal.
In 2015, ETECSA announced/leaked a plan to make ADSL service available in 50% of Cuban homes by 2020. I was skeptical. Doing so would mean investing a lot of money for obsolete technology between 2015 and 2020.
ETECSA first tested, then offered ADSL service in Old Havana. Only 600 customers opened accounts after the test period, leading me to speculate (and hope) that the ADSL project would end given the low acceptance rate. I was wrong, but I still don't think ADSL will or should reach anywhere near 50% of Cuban homes.
Let me digress a bit to explain why I think ADSL is a bad idea. ADSL requires a telephone line from one's home to a phone company central office where the DSL equipment is installed and the central office needs a fast enough connection to the Internet to handle the traffic of all the customers it serves. Deteriorated wiring, a long distance from a home to the central office or a lack of backhaul capacity from the central office to the Internet reduce connection speed.
For example, in my neighborhood Frontier offers ADSL service at speeds ranging from 1.61 Mbps to 6 Mbps. (The FCC defines "broadband" as 25 Mbps or more). My home is about two miles from my central office and it was built just after World War II, so the fastest speed they can offer me is 3 Mbps. That has not changed since I discontinued ADSL in the 1990s. ADSL technology has improved since that time, but Frontier has not invested in new equipment because their ADSL service is clearly inferior to that offered by cable TV companies.
Perhaps ETECSA has a commitment to their DSL equipment vendor, Huawei, or they are able to make a profit serving a few customers at the high prices they are charging today, but I can't imagine them making a large investment in this technology. (see prices below).
I don't have the details, but my guess is that only a few central offices will be equipped for ADSL in each new city and a relatively small number of people in served neighborhoods will choose to pay the prices they are charging for home Internet service. (I wonder what percent of their current Havana and Bayamo customers are businesses or homes of people who rent rooms or work at home).
As such, I don't see this slow, expensive, restricted service as very important. It should be considered an interim, stopgap measure, like WiFi parks or El Paquete Semanal, while ETECSA plans "leapfrogging" to next-generation technology and, more important, regulation and infrastructure ownership policy in the 2020s.
In 2016 there were 764 central offices in Cuba (719 of them digital). I don't know if some central offices serve homes in more than one popular council or if there are some popular councils served by more than one central office, but even with this expansion, ADSL is only available to and affordable by a small portion of Cuban homes.
My guess would be that the central offices that have been upgraded to allow for ADSL are in relatively affluent neighborhoods and many subscribers are businesses or people renting rooms in their homes, but that is just a guess and it would be interesting to see a survey of ADSL subscribers.
===== Update 10/16/2017
When ETECSA held a home connectivity trial in Havana last year, 868 people participated and over 600 contracted for the service. They are now extending the availability of home connectivity to portions of seven Havana municipalities: La Habana Vieja, Centro Habana, Revolution Square, Havana del Este, San Miguel del Padrón, La Lisa and beach. (It had been available in only two up till now).
Note that all locations in those municipalities will not be covered -- I suspect that is due to distance from an ETECSA central office, a lack of backhaul capacity and/or the poor wiring condition.
They also announced a home service price cut -- 15 CUC per month will now get you 1 Mbps instead of 256 kbps. (The release said 1 megabyte, but I suspect that was a typo).
Perhaps ETECSA is able to recover the cost of their DSL and infrastructure investment at the speeds and prices they are offering, but this is clearly not the path to widespread home connectivity.
===== Update 10/17/2017
ETECSA has released the number of Nauta Hogar subscribers outside of Havana: 232 in Pinar del Río, 225 in Holguín, 134 in Guantanamo, 79 in Granma and 142 in Las Tunas. Most of those are 1 or 2 Mbps.
With a reported subscriber count of 600 in Havana, this brings the total number of homes with ADSL connectivity to a little over 1,400. As of 2015, there were 996,063 residential phone lines in Cuba. They clearly can not and should not count on using ADSL to reach the 50% availability level mentioned above.
Google global cache servers are online in Cuba, but Google's App Engine is blocked
This is a belated update. I had hoped to get more information before posting it, but difficult Internet access in Cuba and now the hurricane got in the way -- better late than never.
Cuban requests for Google services are being routed to GCC servers in Cuba and all Google services that are available in Cuba are being cached -- not just YouTube. That will cut latency significantly, but Cuban data rates remain painfully slow. My guess is that Cubans will notice the improved performance in interactive applications, but maybe not perceive much of a change when watching a streaming video.
Note the italics in the above paragraph -- evidently, Google blocks access to their App Engine hosting and application development platform. Cuban developers cannot build App Engine applications and Cubans cannot access applications like the Khan Academy or Google's G-Suite.
The last time I checked, Rackspace and Amazon allowed access to their hosting platforms from Cuba, but IBM Softlayer and Google did not. President Obama clearly favored improved telecommunication for Cuba, stating that
I’ve authorized increased telecommunications connections between the United States and Cuba. Businesses will be able to sell goods that enable Cubans to communicate with the United States and other countries.
Fact checking the recent news about Google in Cuba
The Cuban Internet is constrained by the Cuban government and to a lesser extent the US government, not Google.
Google's Cuba project has been in the news lately. Mary Anastasia O’Grady wrote a Wall Street Journal article called "Google’s Broken Promise to Cubans," criticising Google for being "wholly uninterested in the Cuban struggle for free speech" and assisting the Castro government.
The article begins by taking a shot at President Obama who "raved" about an impending Google-Cuba deal “to start setting up more Wi-Fi access and broadband access on the island.”
(The use of the word "raved" nearly caused me to dismiss the article and stop reading, but I forced myself to continue).
The next paragraph tells us "Google has become a supplier of resources to the regime so that Raúl Castro can run internet (sic) at faster speeds for his own purposes."
The article goes on to tell us that Brett Perlmutter of Google "boasted" that Google was “thrilled to partner” with a regime-owned museum, featuring a Castro-approved artist.
(Like "raved," the use of the word "boasted" seemed Trump-worthy, but I kept reading).
O'Grady also referred to a July 2015 Miami Herald report that Perlmutter had pitched a proposal to build an island-wide digital infrastructure that the Cuban government rejected.
Perlmutter tweeted that the site was blocked because of the US embargo on Cuba.
Well, that is enough. Let's do some fact checking.
President Obama's "raving:" It is true that President Obama made a number of (in retrospect) overly-optimistic predictions during his Cuba trip, but the use of the word "raving" and the obligatory shot at President Obama were clues that O'grady might not be impartial and objective.
Google as a supplier of resources: This presumably is a reference to Google's caching servers in Cuba. While these servers marginally speed access to Google applications like Gmail and YouTube, it is hard to see how that helps Raul Castro. It has been reported that Cuba agreed "not censor, surveil or interfere with the content stored" on Google's caching servers. Furthermore, Gmail is encrypted and YouTube is open to all comers -- for and against the Cuban government. Brett Perlmutter's boasting: about partnering with a Cuban artist's installation of a free WiFi hotspot. I agree that the WiFi hotspot at the studio of the Cuban artist Kcho is an over-publicized drop in the bucket -- much ado about not much.
Google's rejected offer of an island-wide digital infrastructure: I have seen many, many (now I'm channeling Trump) references to this "offer," but have no idea what was offered. Google won't tell me and I've seen no documentation on the offer.
Google's blocking of Cubadecide.org: It is true that Google blocks access to Cubadecide.org. Furthermore, they block access from Cuba to all sites that are hosted on their infrastructure. Microsoft also blocks Cuban access to sites they host; however, Amazon and Rackspace do not. Cubadecide.org could solve their problem by moving their site to Amazon, Rackspace or a different hosting service that does not block Cuban access.
Perlmutter blames the embargo: I don't want to give Google a pass on this. The next question is "why does Amazon allow Cuban access and Google does not?" They are both subject to the same US laws. IBM is a more interesting case -- they did not block access at first but changed their policy later.
There may be some reason for IBM and Google behaving differently than Amazon and Rackspace. I asked both IBM and Google for an explanation, but neither replied.
Before publishing this post, I wanted to confirm my understanding of the situation and I found something I cannot explain. It turns out that the Khan Academy, an educational site with both Spanish and English versions that I would love to see available in Cuba, uses both Amazon and Google as hosts.
When I accessed them from the US, I was directed to Amazon for the English site and Google for the Spanish site, but I got strange results from friends in Cuba. One told me he was unable to access either site from a government enterprise but was able to access both from a WiFi park. Another told me he was unable to access either from a university, the medical network, Mednet, or a WiFi park. I had them try the Amazon IP address I was directed to in the US (220.127.116.11), but that did not work in Cuba either.
Well, that remains a mystery, which maybe some reader in Cuba can clear up.
Well, those are the "facts" as I see them. The bottom line for me is that the Cuban government, not Google, is constraining the Cuban Internet. (I've talked about Cuban constraints in several earlier posts, for example, here and here). The US embargo and Trump's policy have also set the Cuban Internet back. That being said, I would like to know why Google feels compelled to block Cuban access when Amazon does not.
Previously optimistic Nearshore Americas says Cuban offshore IT is a lost cause.
In an earlier post, I asked whether the nascent Cuban software community would thrive. The offshore IT firm Nearshore Americas seemed to think the answer was "yes." Two years ago, I described their report on Cuba’s Readiness for ICT Transformation, which spoke of barriers to success but also documented Cuba's talent pool and the government agenda for improving connectivity.
That was two years ago. Today, they have given up on Cuba. Kirk Laughlin, Nearshore Americas founder and managing director, has written a post stating that
For those who continue to hope that Cuba will turn the corner, stop hoping. It’s futile. We know it first hand, and in this piece, I’ll explain as plainly as I can that Cuba is a lost cause, a basket-case for global services and easily the biggest disappointment ever in the short history of Nearshore information technology and business process outsourcing.
He goes on to describe his frustrating interactions with stubborn, paranoid Cuban officials and diplomats during the ensuing two years. He came to realize that "an American pitching technology in Havana is like a Russian selling satellite equipment in Washington, D.C. – suspicions are instantly raised."
The following figures show results of Nearshore Americas' poll of Cuban IT workers two years ago.
----- Update 9/5/2017
Inspired by the Nearshore Americas post, Cuban blogger and professor Armando Camacho has written a post on the failure of Cuban outsourcing (in Spanish). He speaks of Cuba's potential as an outsourcing hub, Nearshore Americas' optimism after President Obama's liberal Cuban policy announcement in December 2014 and their disappointment with Cuba's response. As Camacho puts it "nobody likes to get a zero on an exam," and that is the grade he is giving the Cuban government.
Cuba denies to the UN any responsibility in the Sonic attack
The mysterious sonic attack on officials of the United States Embassy in Havana arrives at the United Nations. Cuba, categorically asserted its foreign Minister to the plenary of the General Assembly, is not responsible. "Ja ... The mysterious sonic attack ...
Number of U.S. Diplomats Who Have Suffered From Attacks in Cuba Rises to 24
The State Department has confirmed that two additional U.S. diplomats have experienced health problems as a result of sonic attacks in Cuba, bringing the total number of diplomats impacted to 24. State Department press secretary Heather Nauert on Friday ...
Strange sonic attacks on US spies in Cuba puzzle intelligence community
October 2, 2017 Havana —Frightening attacks on United States personnel in Havana struck the heart of America's spy network in Cuba, with intelligence operatives among the first and most severely affected victims, The Associated Press has learned.
US planning withdrawal of embassy staff in Havana; Cuba urges Washington not to make hasty decisions
Washington: The United States is crafting a plan for a drawdown of staff from the American embassy in Havana in response to still-unexplained incidents that have harmed the health of some US diplomats there, US and congressional officials said on Thursday.
The Cuba Acoustic Files: “The Balloon that Inflates By Itself”
HAVANA TIMES – In this new chapter of the saga more alleged victims of Cuba’s fantastic acoustic weapons are coming forward. Apparently two more officials from the US Embassy would have suffered the mysterious audio attacks. The balloon continues to ...
House to demand investigation into Cuba's airport security after Obama 'stonewalled'
by Pete Kasperowicz | Oct 20, 2017, 3:05 PM Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Email this article Share on LinkedIn Print this article The Cuban Airport Security Act would require the Transportation Security Administration to study security at Cuba's airports.
2 more U.S. workers experienced symptoms at embassy in Havana
Oct. 20 (UPI) --Two more government employees have experienced symptoms associated with a mysterious attack on U.S. diplomats in Havana, Cuba, the U.S. State Department said Friday. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said a total of 24 government personnel ...
Diplomats affected by Cuba attacks rises to 24 — US State Dept
WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The United States Friday raised the number of embassy officials affected by mysterious covert attacks in Cuba to 24 but said the update did not reflect new attacks. "Based on continued assessments of US Government ...
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