The president of the United States, Joe Biden, assured that his administration is studying ways to restore internet access in Cuba, a country that he described as a “failed state”.
President Joe Biden’s suggestion that the United States give Cuba full access to the internet could break new ground in digital rights, but faces significant technical and geopolitical obstacles.
The president’s statement followed the statements of Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, for whom Washington should implement satellites, balloons and access points offshore to provide unfiltered connectivity to Cuba.
“They have cut off internet access. We are considering whether we have the technological capacity to reestablish that access“Biden told reporters Thursday.
Human rights activists welcomed the idea of giving Cubans an unrestricted internet after the government of the island will cut applications and connection services while facing strong internal protests.
Joe Biden, on Saturday in Philadelphia. Reuters photo
“I’m not sure how timely or easy it would be“However, stressed Milton Mueller, professor at the Georgia University of Technology and director of the Internet Governance Project.
“If the Cuban government cuts access there is no way to easily connect from a balloon or a drone.”
Cuba has limited access to both fixed and mobile internet and has used other methods to filter online content with Chinese-made technology, said Gaspar Pisanu of the digital rights group Access Now.
“They are removing people’s ability to use mobile data by revoking their SIM cards, censor hashtags, block messages on VPN“, He said.
To get around limitations to the internet, activists turn to a variety of resources, including virtual private networks (VPNs), “mesh networks” that connect groups of computers and techniques to conceal their activities, but none have been used on a large scale.
Satellite, drone and balloon internet services are in an early stage and are often accessed through official operators.
Cuba’s possible response
The capitol of Havana, crossed by the protests of the citizens. Photo EFE
But Havana is likely to view any effort to run an unfiltered internet as a violation of its sovereignty, notes the human rights group Freedom House.
“The Cuban legal structure is not favorable to internet freedom, and the country lacks an independent judicial system that can counteract the government’s efforts to suppress independent activity online, “said that association in its 2020 report.
“The Internet is a basic human right in the digital age“said Darrell West, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technological Innovation.
Sebastián Arcos, associate director of the Cuban Research Institute at Florida International University, welcomed the proposals of Biden and others, and argued that “the Cuban regime abuses the concept of sovereignty.” to repress its population.
Cuba at the center of the protests this week. AFP photo
But he noted that such an initiative “could be problematic given the history of the United States and Cuba.”
An alternative internet plan “It would toughen the resistance of the Cuban government and give it an excuse to affirm that it is an imperialist action of the United States, “added Mueller.
Pisanu said that his organization asked Cuba to fully restore connectivity, without promoting an alternative internet.
.Source: AFP (Rob Lever)