Google executives have proposed to the Cuban
government a way to expand Internet access on the island quickly and
massively, but Cuban authorities are skeptical of the plan, several
sources familiar with the proposal have told El Nuevo Herald.
The sources said the proposal would make the
Internet available through Wi-Fi connections and cellular phones, much
like Google Ideas executive Brett Perlmutter suggested during a recent
visit to Havana. The sources asked for anonymity and declined to provide
“Cuba has a big opportunity to jump its
infrastructure directly into mobile phones, without going through all of
the fixed cables that are being installed in African countries,”
Perlmutter told the digital magazine On Cuba during the visit.
Companies such as Google and Facebook are
competing to close the world’s so-called “digital gap” and expand
connectivity in less developed countries — which in the long run would
expand the markets for their own products and applications — through new
systems like those that use drones or balloons.
One official Cuban source said the Google
executives met with “commercial authorities, and they have been talking.
This is seen as a process.” Another source in Cuba said Google offered
to pay for almost the entire cost of the proposal.
A Google spokesperson told El Nuevo Herald
that the company “is working to help the Cuban government think through
their publicly stated goal of improving Internet access. We have not
given money to Cuba to develop Internet connectivity.”
A big-scale project of this type could
significantly benefit Cubans, who have one of the lowest Internet access
rates in the world. Only 3.4 per cent of homes have web access,
according to the International Telecommunications Union.
Alana Tummino, head of the Cuba working group
at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas and head of the group
whose trip to Havana included Perlmutter, said that big companies are
“interested in exploring options and submitting investment proposals in
sectors such as telecommunications, but patience and trust-building are
“There is still scepticism from Cuban
officials on the motives of U.S. companies entering their market,”
Tummino added. “There is enormous opportunity, but it will take time to
turn this opportunity into real projects being implemented on the