At the dawn of the Internet, Cuba led the Caribbean in computer networking and was well positioned to continue to lead. But the Cuban Internet stagnated due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US embargo, and the “dictator’s dilemma” — a desire to enjoy the benefits of connectivity without its political and cultural risks.
Today, Cuban infrastructure, skills, and application sophistication are behind the rest of the Caribbean and most of the world. The Cuban Internet is like their old cars — Cuba is stuck at Web 1.0.
What of the outlook for the future? Here we have questions and predictions, but few certain answers. The ALBA-1 undersea cable connecting Cuba and Venezuela has been installed and will begin service in the fall of 2011. The cable will dramatically increase the speed of Cuban international connectivity and decrease its cost. It seems safe to predict that current users in areas like education, health care, government and tourism will be first to reap the benefit of ALBA-1.New domestic communication infrastructure and human resources will be needed if Cuba is to utilize the cable, but it is not clear how this investment will be financed or how much progress has been made to date. Given the US trade embargo and Chinese involvement in the ALBA-1 cable, it is likely that the Chinese will also be involved in the upgrading of domestic infrastructure. U. S. and Cuban leaders are also aging and will doubtless change, but it is uncertain how those changes will impact the Internet.