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Is Cuba Finally Getting Better, Faster Internet? Maybe!

Signs of life from a submarine cable.
Cuba libre? (Photo: flickr.com/jodastephen)

Note the utter absence of Internet cafes.(Photo: flickr.com/jodastephen)

Cuba certainly isn’t as isolated as North Korea, but Internet access has long been available only via satellite–meaning it’s expensive and slow as molasses  Email barely works; forget about a GIF-heavy Tumblr dashboard. It’s also largely limited to public spaces, like hotels targeting foreign tourists.

However, researchers say they’re seeing sparks of increased Internet connectivity in Cuba. It could mean more openness for the country–although it’s probably not time to pour yourself a Cuba Libre just yet.

Thanks to the U.S. embargo, Cuba can’t exactly just run a cable to nearby Florida. In 2011, the country completed a submarine cable to Venezuela, but it’s been mostly quiet since… until now, maybe. Researchers at the traffic monitoring firm Renesys say they’re seeing limited activity from the connection, though it’s limited to inward-bound information. Outbound traffic still has to travel via slow-ass satellite.

In a blog post, the team was cautious in just how big of a break this is for Internet access on the island:

While the activation of the ALBA-1 cable may be a good first step to providing ETECSA a better link to the Internet, the lack of widespread public access to Internet service throughout the island will likely continue.

As the Global Post adds, access is likely to go to public places like schools and hospitals, though locals are hoping they might finally be able to get data service on their smartphones. And there is reason to think, on the heels of loosened travel restrictions, that more connectivity might be coming.

Whether that’ll come with more freedom is another question entirely. Witness, for example, the recent arrest of blogger and activist Yoani Sanchez.

Meanwhile, China seems to have totally blocked Github.

(h/t Daily Dot)

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com