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Google and Cuba sign deal allowing fast Internet access to company data

Published:Wednesday | December 14, 2016 | 4:25 PM
Backdropped by a poster of the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Mayra Arevich Marin, president of state telecom monopoly Etecsa, and Google chairman Eric Schmidt, wait for the start of a signing ceremony, in Havana, Cuba, on Monday.

Google and the Cuban government have signed a deal allowing the Internet giant to provide faster access to its data by installing servers on the island that will store much of the company's most popular content.

Storing Google data in Cuba eliminates the long distances that signals must travel from the island through Venezuela to the nearest Google server.

More than a half century after cutting virtually all economic ties with Cuba, the US has no direct data link to the island.

The deal removes one of the many obstacles to a normal Internet in Cuba, which suffers from some of the world's most limited and expensive access.

Home connections remain illegal for most Cubans and the government charges the equivalent of a month's average salary for 10 hours of access to public WiFi spots with speeds frequently too slow to download files or watch streaming video.

The agreement does not affect Cuba's antiquated communications infrastructure or broaden public access to the Internet, but it could make Google websites like YouTube or Gmail up to 10 times faster for users inside Cuba. Content hosted by other companies will not be affected.

Neither Google chairman Eric Schmidt, nor Cuban officials, spoke to the press after the Monday signing ceremony in Havana.