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Cuban fibre optic cable finally activated

A high-speed fibre optic cable that will allow Cubans to connect to the global Internet has been activated after being ready for over a year, researchers have said.

According to monitoring experts at Renesys, the cable, known as Alba-1, has become active for the first time since being completed in 2011. There are reportedly signs of data flowing into the country via Alba-1, though, curiously, not out of it.

"In the past week, our global monitoring system has picked up indications that this cable has finally been activated, although in a rather curious way," wrote Doug Madory, Renesys' senior researcher, about the ‘mystery cable’.

The project was conceptualised more than five years ago as a partnership between both Cuba and Venezuela’s government-owned telecommunications comes, but faced delay after delay until finally being completed in 2011. Still, despite the cable’s readiness, Cubans were unable to access the Internet via cable, relying instead on slow and expensive satellite connections to get online.

An increase in the speed of Cuban connections over the past week suggested that cable is now in use alongside satellite.

“The fact that the latencies to Cuba from many locations around the world have dropped below 480ms [milliseconds] means that the new Telefonica service cannot be entirely via satellite,” said Madory.

The decision to switch on the fibre optic cable may be tied to a willingness on behalf of the Cuban government to become “freer and more open,” Madory speculated, also adding that censorship firewalls, much like those seen in China, do not appear to be in place in Cuba.