This post was written by a friend who asked me to post it anonymously. (I am just a platform, like Facebook or 8chan :-).
El pasado 10 de agosto decenas de integrantes de SNet se reunieron en las afueras del Ministerio de Comunicaciones de Cuba para solicitar una vía legal que impida la desaparición de la red.
A finales de mayo, dos resoluciones ministeriales, las resoluciones No 98 y la 99 del Ministerio de las Comunicaciones, establecían un nuevo marco regulatorio del espacio radioeléctrico cubano, legalizaban las redes privadas, aunque los límites impuestos suponían la desaparición de SNet, la gran infraestructura habanera de acuerdo a la tipología empleada por sus administradores desde hace más de 10 años.
Sin embargo, la solución de las autoridades de comunicaciones y los reguladores fue la fusión con la infraestructura de los Joven Club de Computación, una organización adscrita a la Organización de los Jóvenes Comunistas, la rama juvenil del Partido Comunista de Cuba.
Con tal medida se disuelve la hasta ahora precaria autonomía de la red comunitaria habanera.
Muchos de los administradores quedaron conformes con las nuevas condiciones. Otros no. Estos últimos convocaron a otro encuentro frente a las instalaciones del Ministerio de Comunicaciones el pasado sábado 17 de agosto, la cual no se efectuó debido al despliegue en la zona y detenciones por parte de las autoridades policiales, de acuerdo a los propios activistas y medios alternativos de noticias.
Los integrantes de las redes privadas de La Habana entregaron más de 250 productos, entre juegos y servicios, desarrollados por ellos mismos a los Joven Club. El director general de Comunicaciones del Mincom asevera que los programadores podrán ser contratados como colaboradores y reconoce el talento de los jóvenes de las redes privadas. Joven Club puede contratar a estos muchachos como colaboradores o como trabajadores. Hay espacio para que puedan seguir desarrollándose y que el servicio continúe creciendo, así nos beneficiamos todos. Este proyecto es inclusivo, los juegos que hasta ahora se disfrutaban en un barrio de La Habana, por ejemplo, estarán a disposición de gamers de todo el país. Esta buena nueva despeja la mayor preocupación de las comunidades: quedarse desconectadas. Según Plá Feria, el MINCOM y los Joven Club robustecen su infraestructura para llegar a la mayor cantidad de lugares posibles. “Incluso, ya se emplean los equipos de quienes integran las redes privadas, gracias a su disposición de colaborar y extender sus prácticas aprovechando las potencialidades de “la computadora de la familia cubana.
En estos momentos se realizan las pruebas de conexión y trabajos de acondicionamiento de la infraestructura tecnológica para la expansión de la wifi en algunas instalaciones de La Habana: Palacio Central de Computación, Cerro v Parque Manila, Playa IX, así como en el municipio de 10 de Octubre y en la urbanización de Alamar.
Las pruebas que se realizan en estos momentos son libres de costo, aunque en etapas siguientes las tarifas que se implementen serán más asequibles para las familias que se conecten a esta red, señaló Díaz Meriño.
Los servicios traspasados incluyen foros, las redes sociales, los juegos en línea, y otros. Ya ha comenzado en algunos “pilares” habaneros, como el del Cerro. Hasta el momento libres de costo; pero se anuncia que en un futuro se cobraran.
Con esta fusión los Jóvenes Clubes utilizaran la infraestructura desplegada de forma cooperativa por los administradores y usuarios de la red; los que a su vez tendrán que acceder a un mayor costo cuando se cobren los servicios.
Usuarios en la página de Cubadebate anotan estas preocupaciones entre los que están a favor y posen sus suspicacias (se ha respetado la ortografía original).
Considero que el SNet independientemente que es una red privada a logrado muchas cosas hasta este momento que el estado no ha logrado, con pocos medios y de forma prácticamente gratuita, con gran cúmulo de servicios y una plataforma casi en la totalidad de la habana, en igual sentido lleva años posibilitando la diversión de los pequeños y mayores de la casa, me pregunto podrá los joven club integrar los usuarios q pretendan acceder a estos servicios, los costos del estado serán igual q los q impone etecsa q. Son casi imposible pagar? Esta red estará disponible para el 2030?
Buenos días Maximino, lo que pretende Joven Club es integrar y aumentar los servicios para el disfrute de la familia. Los precios les aseguramos que seran módicos, por debajo del menor precio de las redes privadas. No es objetivo de Joven Club enriquecerse con estas acciones si no que haya una red segura, amplia y bajo las resoluciones. El precio sera colegiado entre Joven Club y las personas de las redes. Espero que se despejen sus dudas. Estamos para que los usuarios esten claros en todo lo que esta pasando.
Hola, si los precios que se van a cobrar van a ser por debajo de los minimos que se cobran en las redes privadas, ¿Cuánto me cobrarán a mi que me conecto de gratis y siempre lo he hecho de gratis acá en Santa Clara?
Las redes comunitarias suelen constituirse y adaptarse de forma cooperativa y colaborativa a partir de la necesidad de los usuarios; algo que muchos no ven que suceda en los Jóvenes Club de Computación. Y no es tema de precios, se conoce que el acceso a la internet en Cuba es uno de los más onerosos en el mundo, aproximadamente 1 USD la hora de conexión en una zona WiFi. El tema que más suspicacias conlleva es la perdida de la autonomía de la red tal y como se ha desarrollado hasta hoy al ser fusionada con una organización estatal y política, con su propia agenda y prioridades. Incluso entre los estatutos actuales de la SNet está que no se permite hablar o debatir de política, religión, sexo o pornografía. Uno de los valores de estas redes cubanas es que no se hace hincapié en la posible rentabilidad financiera o promover una agenda política o religiosa.
Otros ven el futuro más optimista.
Shadow Walker Administrador de SNET (Street NETwork) CUBA - Perfil Oficial dijo:
Para gran parte de la comunidad de SNET a nivel nacional esta es una gran noticia aunque aun existe muchas dudas con respecto a los servicios. Dentro de estas y las mas importantes creo que ya debatidas por Doom y Julito personas muy queridas dentro de nuestro pequeño espacio digital es la de la conexion de usuarios los cuales viven muy distantes de los Joven Club, seria bueno que junto a estos sumen a todas las entidades que pertenecen al MINCOM para llegar a mas puntos de acceso dentro de la red nacional, ejemplos de estos, Joven Club ya incluidos, Etecsa, Correos de Cuba, Copextel, Radio Cuba, Radio Aficionados y demas entidades que cuenten en este momento con fibra óptica, también dentro de estos proyectos incluir he instruir a los gobiernos provinciales y municipales en cuanto a indicaciones para potenciar este tipo de conexion.
Pero tal y como la conocemos la SNet, como los dinosaurios, está condenada a desaparecer.
Cuba claims new regulations expand Internet access to homes and businesses, but here's the downside
The new regulations establish constraints on private network transmission power and cabling that, if enforced, would put Cuba's cooperatively-owned community networks out of business.
New Cuban regulations regarding private WiFi networks went into effect yesterday, and the New York Times and others proclaimed that "Cuba expands Internet access to private homes and businesses." Yes, Cubans can legally import and install WiFi routers in their homes, small cafes, B&Bs, etc., but these regulations will make little difference in Internet access.
For a start, very few homes and small businesses in Cuba have links to the Internet. Furthermore, my guess is that most people in homes that are connected to the Internet have already installed registered or unregistered WiFi routers. (Resolution No. 65/2003 dated June 5, 2003, states the procedure for registering a private data network).
If that is the case, what do these new regulations change?
They establish constraints on private network transmission power and cabling that, if enforced, would put Cuba's cooperatively-owned community networks, the largest of which is SNET in Havana, out of business. Even if they are not enforced today, they will hang like the sword of Damocles over their heads.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the Ministry of Communication has postponed enforcement for 60 days while they negotiate with SNET.
SNET will remain up during 60 days of negotiation (source).
Why would the Cuban government want to eliminate community networks? Do they see them as economic competitors to the government Internet service provider, ETECSA? Is ETECSA embarrassed by the fact that community networks connect so many people at so little cost? Do they fear clandestine, anti-government communication? I really don't know.
They see community networks as economic competitors to ETECSA, the state-monopoly ISP.
They are embarrassed by the community networks' ability to connect so many people at so little cost.
They fear anti-government communication.
Since they control the Internet and have seen the example of countries like China which use a ubiquitous Internet as a tool of control, I lean toward answers 1 and 2.
Ernesto De Armas <@RealErnesto95>, tweeted this positive update on the negotiations with MINCOM:
Hola a todos. Por esta vía transmito las buenas nuevas respecto a SNET, hoy en la tarde el grupo de trabajo SNET-MINCOM llegaron a favorables acuerdos mediante los cuales se determinó que Snet va a pasar todos sus servicios a través de los JCC, los JCC a su vez estarán conectados por fibra óptica entre ellos y los servidores que contienen nuestros servicios se montarán en ETECSA.
También se autorizó a que los nodos se conecten a los JCC utilizando equipos de alta potencia que son los necesarios para poder hacer esto, entre estos equipos se incluyen los equipos de Ubikiti, Nanostation, etc de alta potencia, no pondrán trabas para estas conexiones hacia los JCC. También hay otra buena noticia, los servicios de SNET pronto estarán disponibles ¡Para todo el país!
También advirtió el grupo de trabajo respetar estos acuerdos y no realizar nada que pueda atentar contra los mismos, nada de manifestarse públicamente (que a mí entender no hace ya ninguna falta, ya hemos logrado lo que queríamos) ni hacer declaraciones ofensivas contra MINCOM. En mi opinión hemos ganado está batalla por la subsistencia de #Snet, ahora debemos cooperar entre todos para hacer de este proyecto algo mejor, incluso, a lo que teníamos anteriormente. Estoy sumamente contento, alegre y agradecido de que nuestras instituciones estatales no hayan hecho oídos sordos a nuestra causa. Hoy comienza una nueva era en la Informatización de la sociedad cubana
TheCubanJedi <@darthdancuba> asked "Podrán abrir algo de sNet a internet??" and Ernesto replied "No. De momento nada de internet a través de Snet como siempre ha sido."
This is unofficial, but if it is accurate, SNET will be more widely available and faster, but not yet on the Internet.
Sad to say, the August 10th update was accurate. Ernesto De Armas <@RealErnesto95> has learned that MINCOM has ruled against SNET and the restrictions on transmission power and cabling will be upheld.
Needless to say, this is disappointing to the users of Cuban community networks and to the general population since it is an indication that ETECSA is determined to remain a monopoly.
As we have the conviction that Revolution is to change everything that needs to be changed, on Saturday, August 17th, from 9am in the park located in front of the MINCOM, behind the bus station terminal, we make a call to all persons filiated to Snet from all the provinces of the country.
SNET, a community created more than 15 years ago, is being affected by the resolutions 98 and 99, we fight and demand to have an autonomous SNET that keeps the social project that we have had during all these years and that reaches so many homes and Cuban families.
To everyone who has the feeling for Snet, which has been created by everyone, this is the time to fight against resolutions 98 and 99 that are attacking the correct functioning of our community, created with everyone's sacrifice and with more than a decade of existence and acceptance by thousands of Cubans.
This is the time to make MINCOM understand that true democracy is conceived and defined by the people and that we must be heard because we are the youth of this country, the new generation and as the future that we are we demand to be considered.
We urge and summon every teenager, young, adult or old person, without any difference who feels identified with our cause, either has enjoyed or not with our network and our services to support us from every place and every spot because WE ALL MATTER, WE ARE ALL SNET. On this depends the end of the beginning of a new dream, a new path that we want to follow, so we can accomplish our acknowledgment before the authorities and a happy ending to keep ourselves being what we are. Snet...
(Click here for a Spanish translation of this post).
Havana needs 5G more than Miami does.
Compared to Miami, Havana is an Internet desert, but Havana may have 5G wireless connectivity before Miami. 5G architecture, US politics and policy, and the 5G timetable favor Havana. Let's start with 5G architecture.
5G will require many "small cells" because it uses high-frequency radio signals that don't travel as far as 4G signals and are more easily blocked by obstructions like trees and buildings. For example, there are about 154,000 cell towers in the US today and the CTIA, an industry association, estimates that there will be 800,000 small cells by 2026.
In Miami, small cell radios will be installed by professional employees of and contractors to the large mobile phone companies. Havana has only one telecommunication company, ETECSA, but it is home to SNET, the world's largest community network that is not connected to the Internet. Today, SNET is illegal but tolerated, and if ETECSA were willing to legitimize and collaborate with SNET, SNET members could play a role in siting and installing small cells. SNET's legal status is currently being reconsidered and by the time Havana is ready to deploy 5G, SNET could play a major cost and time-saving role. (Note that Cuba's new constitution de-centralizes executive governance by reducing provincial government and strengthening municipal government, possibly increasing the likelihood of local control of Internet infrastructure).
Havana's population is about 4.5 times that of Miami, but the population density is about one-tenth of Miami's. Low population density lends itself to citizen installation -- antennas will be relatively easy to site and install. Furthermore, obtaining permission to install them in Havana will be easier than Miami. Wire-line Internet service providers have already installed broadband infrastructure throughout Miami and, since 5G will offer a fixed-broadband alternative, the incumbents will resist it politically. On the other hand, 5G will fill a near-vacuum in Havana -- Havana needs 5G more than Miami does.
Wireless standards are complex and evolve over time. The Third Generation Partnership Project was established in 1998 to define 3G mobile standards and is now defining 5G standards. Thousands of people from equipment manufacturers, telecommunication companies, national and international standards organizations, and professional societies are involved in the process and the technology and standards evolve over time. (For example, between February of 2016 and January 2019, average 4G download speed doubled in the US).
While we will see an ad proclaiming that Miami "has 5G" this year or next, the capability and applications will be marginally improved over 4G and only available in limited parts of the city. Perhaps five years from now 5G standards and equipment that can support novel applications will become available.
Stopgap measures like 3G, public WiFi, and home DSL will not close the fiber gap between Miami and Havana, but in five years improved terrestrial wireless and low and medium-earth orbit (LEO and MEO) satellite connectivity will be available for 5G backhaul. Cuba is already a customer of MEO Internet-service provider O3b and in five years O3b will have significantly improved capacity and performance. Additionally, LEO providers SpaceX, OneWeb and China's Hongyun Project all plan to be offering service over Cuba in five years. SpaceX is based in the US and OneWeb in Great Britain, so Hongyun may have the inside track here, although they will have less capacity than their competitors.
Trump's trade war with China favors Havana over Miami. As FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel points out: "levying new tariffs on everything from semiconductors to modems to routers is not going to make it any easier to deploy 5G wireless service. In fact, it will make it much more expensive."
His ban against Huawei further advantages Havana since Huawei is the world's leading producer of telecommunication equipment for service providers with a comfortable lead over their 5G competitors Nokia and Ericsson. They are also the number 2, in unit sales, and number 3, in revenue, smartphone manufacturer. If the ban persists, Miami will not have access to Huawei equipment.
Rather than seeing 5G as a cooperative global effort, Trump sees it as a competitive race and his 5G policy focuses on spectrum allocation (which is going poorly) and a call for State and local governments to improve "access to land, infrastructure, and property that will support new wireless networks, including rural America." [sic] That call sounds like it was drafted by a lobbyist for the incumbent mobile telcos or perhaps an ex-Associate General Counsel at Verizon like FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and it will meet resistance. (China has no such conflict).
I used the word "can" instead of "will" in the title of this post because the outcome depends upon the will of the Cuban government and ETECSA.
Cuba's new WiFi regulations -- a step forward, backward or sideways?
Cuba has legalized WiFi access to public Internet hotspots from nearby homes and small businesses, but SNET and other community networks remain illegal under the new regulations. Does this signify a significant policy change?
Soon after Cuba's state monopoly telecommunication company ETECSA began rolling out WiFi hotspots for Internet access, people began linking to them from homes and community street nets. These connections and importing the WiFi equipment they used were illegal, but generally tolerated as long as they remained apolitical and avoided pornography. Regulations passed last month legalized some of this activity in a bid to boost connectivity by allowing Internet access from homes and small private businesses like restaurants and vacation rentals that are located close enough to a hotspot to establish a WiFi connection.
The added convenience may generate more revenue for ETECSA and it will give the Ministry of Communication (MINCOM) some small fees and, more important, registration data on the local-area network operators. (If you license a connection, you have the power to rescind the license). It will also generate some additional network traffic, which may strain network capacity. There are two WiFi frequency bands -- 2.4 and 5 Ghz -- and a friend told me that currently only the 2.4 Ghz band is being used. The new regulations allow use of the 5 Ghz band as well, which will add capacity from homes and businesses to the hotspots, but backhaul capacity from the hotspots to the Internet may become more of a bottleneck and exacerbate quality of service problems.
So much for small networks, but what, if anything, will be the impact of these regulations and their enforcement be on larger, community networks, the largest of which is Havana's SNET? The new regulations bar cables that cross streets and radio transmitter power over 100 mW. SNET uses cables and higher-powered transmitters, so, if these regulations were enforced, they would put SNET and smaller community networks out of business.
However, community networks have been illegal and tolerated since their inception, so it may be that they will continue to be ignored. If that is the case, the new regulations don't really change the status quo, but what if these new regulations foreshadow a policy change? What if ETECSA were willing to collaborate with community networks following the example of Guifi.net in Spain?
SNET topology. Red dots are pillars;others are second-level nodes (source).
If that were the case, ETECSA could take steps like providing high-speed wireless or fiber Internet connections at the locations of the central SNET backbone "pillars" and allowing cables and faster wireless links to and within second-level networks that serve up to 200 users. They could also cooperate with SNET administrators in purchasing supplies and equipment and network management and they could do the same for smaller community networks outside of Havana.
So, which is it -- a step backward with cracking down on SNET and other community networks, a slightly positive step adding locations from which one can access a WiFi hotspot, or a positive indication of a policy change and a step toward incorporating community networks into the recognized and supported Cuban Internet infrastructure?
We will know the answer after the new rules go into effect on July 29, but my guess is that it will be the middle choice, a slightly positive step. Cracking down on SNET would be disruptive -- eliminating jobs and depriving thousands of users of services they value and I don't think the government would want those problems. At the other extreme, full cooperation with community networks would mean ETECSA giving up control and the dilution of their bureaucratic and financial monopoly, which seems unlikely.
But, to end on a more upbeat note -- a friend tells me that he has heard that SNET community representatives are talking with the government. Could ETECSA and MINCOM have different views and, if so, who is in charge?
Two things. First, the friend I mentioned above commented on my speculation that MINCOM and ETECSA might have different views, saying "ETECSA and MINCOM are so tight together that is hard to say where one starts and the other one begins."
He also pointed out that the administrators of four of the SNET sub-nets posted a statement telling users to remain respectful and calm while they negotiate with MINCOM to protect the interest of SNET and other community networks. They have had one meeting in which they talked about spectrum and the statement refers to the "regulatory framework," suggesting that MINCOM is open to high-speed wireless links. They say the first meeting was productive and they will have future meetings.
This increases my confidence that SNET will survive under these new regulations and, if MINCOM allows high-speed links between the sub-nets, SNET performance will improve. It would be even better if the talks go beyond SNET's survival and move on to ways they can collaborate with ETECSA.
Does China's Digital Silk Road to Latin America and the Caribbean run through Cuba?
China will not ignore Latin America and the Caribbean forever and Cuba is a logical place to start.
DSR IT infrastructure projects as of 12/2018 (source).
China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is an ambitious, long-term, global investment and development program. It was launched in 2013 with a focus on infrastructure -- roads, railroads, pipelines, undersea cables and ports. Since then China has invested $80 billion and signed 173 BRI agreements with 125 countries and 29 international organizations.
Building a Digital Silk Road (DSR) is a BRI subgoal. The DSR was added in 2015 under the name "Information Silk Road" with the goals of improving international communications connectivity and fostering the internationalization of China’s rapidly growing tech companies. The DSR plan addresses technologies like security, machine learning, 5G wireless, chip design and manufacturing and applications in areas like e-commerce, e-government, and smart cities. It also encompasses infrastructure in space -- the BeiDou satellite navigation system, the Hongyun low-earth orbit broadband Internet project and the Digital Belt and Road Earth observation program.
China Unicom and Camcom installed an undersea cable between Cameroon and Brazil with Huawei doing the engineering and installation. Previously, Huawei had installed the underwater cables shown here, but the DSR project has focused primarily on Eurasia and Africa. However, China will not ignore Latin America and the Caribbean forever and Cuba is a logical place to start.
Cuban delegates attended the thematic-forum on the DSR at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in April and Cuba's digital ties to China date back many years:
Google and ETECSA will agree to exchange Internet traffic without charge
This agreement telegraphs a change in Cuban policy -- now we need the cable.
Google and ETECSA have signed a memorandum of understanding agreeing to negotiate a peering agreement that would allow cost-free data exchange between their networks once an undersea cable physically connects them.
Today, nearly all of Cuba's Internet traffic is carried over an undersea cable at the south end of the island. A cable from the Havana area to Florida would reduce the load on their inter-city "backbone" network that today carries Internet traffic to the cable landing in the south. That would result in a faster Internet and save ETECSA money. The next generation of low-earth and medium-earth orbit satellite connectivity can have a similar effect.
ETECSA could use the savings from an undersea cable or next-generation satellites to cut prices, increase investment in infrastructure or increase profit. That would depend upon who is actually calling the shots at ETECSA.
Over three years ago, Daniel Sepulveda, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, said he knew of at least a half dozen proposals — from US and non-US companies — to construct a north-south undersea cable between the US and Cuba.
The cable has been stopped by politics, not economics or technical difficulty. It looks like Cuba is willing to relent on the politics. Trump's fighting this cable would solidify Cuba's political and commercial ties with China and Russia.
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