back to article Cubans defy government's home internet ban with secret home-made network

Cubans are fighting back against restrictions on their use of internet with SNet, a secret network. Also known as StreetNet, it pools the resources of citizens, who are effectively prohibited from using the internet. The Washington Post reports that while the full fat internet in Cuba is government-controlled – home internet …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No wonder Obama wants to thaw relations

    The potential for trade is huge. I'm surprised the Chinese haven't gone in and built. 4G network (along with Great Firewall expertise) already.

    1. Snowman

      Re: No wonder Obama wants to thaw relations

      It is not like there were not were no other options before now, cuba's economy has never really recovered from the loss of aid when the USSR collapsed.

    2. Message From A Self-Destructing Turnip

      Re: No wonder Obama wants to thaw relations

      Yep that's 11 million users still to be monetized, I am sure there's more than one large corporation just itching to 'help out'.

      1. Anonymous Coward 101

        Re: No wonder Obama wants to thaw relations

        The only thing worse than being monetised is not being monetised.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: No wonder Obama wants to thaw relations

      Cuba was a pawn in the Cold War. To my knowledge, Cuba has little interest in what the Chinese can offer and vice versa especially since China is moving away from the rigid Marxist/Mao version of communism as opposed to the Cuban version of Marxist/Stalinist. The ideology of the old guard in Cuba and their successors plays a key role in any changes that might be forthcoming. As others have and will point out... follow the money on all sides including (maybe especially) the Cuban side.

    4. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: No wonder Obama wants to thaw relations

      Cuba wouldn't be worth it to build a full cellular network; most of the people are poor and there isn't anything economically advantageous about Cuba that couldn't be gained from anywhere else for cheaper (while not pissing off Castro).

      1. LucreLout Silver badge

        Re: No wonder Obama wants to thaw relations

        Cuba wouldn't be worth it to build a full cellular network; most of the people are poor

        The people are poor because of the sanctions that see very little imported. An end to economic sanctions would see the wealth of the Cuban people soar alomst overnight.

        Sure, there are two sides to every story, more when you include both sets of intelligence services, so you can view the sanctions as justified or not depending on what you believe. I personally believe the sanctions are there mostly because Cuba under Castro declined to honour the notes Batista had just swapped for dollars in Florida, seeing as how he stole them from Cuba on his way out. If that belief is correct, then the economic potential for ending sanctions and signing free trade agreements between NAFTA and Cuba would likely over shadow the original loss. Win, win - regardless of politics.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Nice one Washington Post!

    Rafael Antonio Broche Moreno can now expect the Cuban black helicopters nuking his house from above.

  3. Florida1920 Silver badge

    A matter of time

    It's only "a matter of time" for just about anything you can think of. Regarding open Internet access in Cuba, think "glacial." A thawing of relations doesn't mean the U.S. won't stop trying to influence Cuban politics. Radio and Television Marti are still going strong; a communist nation less than 100 miles from the U.S., that has outlasted 9 presidential administrations is an embarrassment of a high order. Drug-cartel-co-opted "democracies," si, commie nations, no.

    It's a funny business. Here in Florida, a huge sugar and real-estate cartel run by ex-patriate Cubans thwarts Everglades restoration and wields almost unbeatable power in state politics. If Cuba suddenly changed course, and was able to export sugar to the U.S. again, what would become of them? You see, it isn't in every American's interest for Cuba to become what our political talking heads claim to desire.

    A little impotent meddling (nothing's changed in >50 years!) keeps the ex-pat Cuban community at bay, but success would benefit the residents of Cuba more than the citizens of the U.S. "Operation Iraqi Freedom" tells you more than you need to know about American altruism.

    If the U.S. truly wanted to oust the Castro regime it easily could have done so after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when no nation on earth could have come to Cuba's aid.

    Obama is talking a good spiel, and maybe he really means what he says. How much he can accomplish is another story. There are too many people in power, in Cuba and the U.S., for whom status quo is profitable, to expect much change in the short term.

    1. Haro

      Re: A matter of time

      Whew. Then we Canadians can enjoy a cheap Cuba for some time. :)

      1. Florida1920 Silver badge

        Re: A matter of time

        You know, of course, that Americans can get in with little effort, right? You fly in from Mexico, Belize, or some other country that has direct flights to Havana, and get a paper visa, so your passport isn't stamped. I almost went as a journalist in the 90s, which would have been legit, but a temporary interruption of Internet access spoiled it. Since I moved to Florida I've met several Americans who routinely visit to get cigars or whatever else is on offer. I'd like to tour the island and see the birds and the city of Matanzas, but I'm too old to take chances with our State Dept. (I'm the guy who gets a ticket for 7 mph over the speed limit when everyone else is doing >10 over!)

        1. LucreLout Silver badge

          Re: A matter of time

          I'd like to tour the island and see the birds and the city of Matanzas, but I'm too old to take chances with our State Dept.

          Perhaps you should view yourself as too old to wait for political intransigence and ineptitude?

          Cuba is a fantastic country, populated in the main by wonderful people, and is well worth a visit; especially before anything changes. If you go, pay a visit to the museum of the revolution: you'll still only get one side of the argument, but it will be the opposite side to that with which you grew up (it was for me anyway), and any debate can only truly be said to be settled once both viewpoints are understood.

    2. LucreLout Silver badge

      Re: A matter of time

      a communist nation less than 100 miles from the U.S., that has outlasted 9 presidential administrations is an embarrassment of a high order. Drug-cartel-co-opted "democracies," si, commie nations, no.

      The experience of Hong Kong SAR and mainland China would seem to show that the best way to reform communism is to expose the people living under it to a little capitalism. You can't do that with the sanctions in place around Cuba.

      The current Cuba administration are dying, literally. Having so successfully eliminated any political opposition, including from within their own party, the Castro family & friends have scant choice for people to take over from them at the end of their days. Change will come soon, and when it begins it will move far quicker than most expect.

      Cuba won't become another American state, but it should become a major and strategic trading partner. The politics of the past generations should die with them.

    3. Mike VandeVelde

      "when no nation on earth could have come to Cuba's aid"

      I was going to upvote up until that line. Maybe some of these countries would want to help:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_medical_internationalism

      "Cuba provides more medical personnel to the developing world than all the G8 countries combined"

      "The idea of a nation saving lives and improving the human condition is alien to traditional statecraft and is therefore discounted as a rationale for the Cuban approach."

      "currently educating more doctors, about 70,000 in all, than all the medical schools in the United States"

      "US President Barack Obama commented... a reminder to the United States that limiting its interactions with Latin American countries to military and drug interdiction might be limiting its influence."

      I'm not saying that any of these nations would have declared war on the USA or anything, but there are things that could be done to make a move like invading Cuba quite expensive in any number of ways. Cuba has a lot more friends than say Afghanistan or Iraq had. Millions and millions and millions of people protested the invasion of Iraq, could you imagine military action against Cuba???

  4. chivo243 Silver badge
    Go

    One really large LAN Party

    The concept is indeed rockin' in my opinion! Repurposed gear cool stuff. I hope this thawing of cold relations pans out to be what it's being touted as being. Is it the real thing??

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: One really large LAN Party

      Cuban up-cycling is legendary, given their lack of resources.

      You can bet that someone has come up with some novel designs to make it all hang together - it might be worth a field-trip just to see if they have come up with a concept that could be applied to work in the Enterprise arena.

  5. LaeMing Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Unfortunately,

    My mum (no Internet access) is just out of line-of-sight to my sister (ADSL2) for a cantenna.

    Cuba? Nah, regional-urban Australia here!

    1. Florida1920 Silver badge

      Re: Unfortunately,

      Have you tried bouncing the signal off intervening buildings?

  6. phil dude
    Boffin

    cantenna?

    Any chance some variation on the cantenna could make the 95 miles to Key West? Or perhaps somewhere nearer...?

    P.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: cantenna?

      Either you need to build a pair of rather conspicuously high masts (350 meter both sides, which tends to, ehm, stick out a bit) or violate the laws of physics.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: cantenna?

        "...or violate the laws of physics."

        Use neutrinos- they laugh at the curve of the earth, but respect the laws of physics!

        1. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
          Joke

          Re: cantenna?

          "Use neutrinos- they laugh at the curve of the earth, but respect the laws of physics!"

          I'm not sure you've thought through the full implications of building a receiver at both ends :)

  7. Michael Thibault
    Boffin

    Please, think of the children

    and re-kern "communication" on that keycap before someone gets hurt!

  8. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    Mesh network via WiFi modules?

    It would be fairly trivial to build a massive mesh network of small modules. Build a small device with an ARM SoC and a couple extra radios, maybe a couple gigs of storage (There are many SoC with all this built-in) and you can have a tiny, portable node with an in-built web server / proxy / caching. Build up a customized version of tor for the routing.

    Stick a solar panel on it and a battery to let it last the night, and add a hook or two and you ave a small device that can be hidden nearly anywhere in a public location providing a free network that can't be traced to anyone (stick 'em on top of roofs, utility poles, treetops, sides of buildings). Drop in a couple with a satellite module to provide access to the greater internet.

    It'd be trivial and fairly cheap to build them, and not too difficult to flood the country with them. At a high enough rate, the government would be swamped and unable to confiscate them fast enough to kill this kind of network. The difficult part would be getting them into the country and paying for the satellite time (Maybe use weather balloons or cubeSats instead?)

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Mesh network via WiFi modules?

      "unable to confiscate them fast enough to kill this kind of network."

      Unless the Govt. decides to kill or "disappear" anyone caught using it. They don't even have to find actual "offenders". Just a good number of people they want rid of and say that's why they were arrested.

      "cubeSats"

      Shirley you mean CubaSats!

      1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

        Re: Mesh network via WiFi modules?

        "Unless the Govt. decides to kill or "disappear" anyone caught using it."

        Too many people start going missing and the government will have a full-scale rebellion on their hands. People tend to be fairly passive in the face of oppression so long as there isn't a threat to their lives; disappearing too many people tends to push the people over that threshold.

        Yeah, I thought about making the CubaSats joke, but felt it was a little too corny...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mesh network via WiFi modules?

      http://villagetelco.org/mesh-potato/

      can provide data and telephone either as a self contained system or with internet and telephone breakouts to PSTN and Global internet, can be linked to Asterisk for expanded telco services.

  9. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
    Joke

    Cuban officials blame the US

    The difference between them and everyone else is that they were doing it before Snowden.

  10. crayon

    "The experience of Hong Kong SAR and mainland China would seem to show that the best way to reform communism is to expose the people living under it to a little capitalism."

    How is that working out for the DPRK? Despite China being the perfect example of the benefits of reforms, Kim Jong-un decided to kill his uncle (who was seen as too pro China and for advocating for the kind of reforms that China had undergone) and thus seemingly shooting down (literally) the prospects of China style reforms for NK. Or maybe he's a shrewd operator, and will carry out reforms at a later date and hence claim all the credit and perpetuate the Dear/Great Leader cult.

    In any case, it wasn't Hong Kong that made China change, it was Deng Xiaoping who made China change and with it the world. He saw the need for reform and eventually had the wherewithal to carry them out. Despite (or maybe because of) being purged more than once, he also put an end to the tendency of authoritarian governments to undergo violent or disorderly transitions of power by putting in place policies for the formal retirement of officials over a certain age and mechanisms for the orderly transfer of power from one set of leaders to the next. He put territorial disputes on the backburner and prioritised economic growth and cooperation. He successfully negotiated the peaceful return of Hong Kong and Macau (in the case of the former, despite Maggie Thatcher's initial wishful thinking stating that Britain would keep Hong Kong Island). The reforms he inititiated have lifted hundreds of millions of people in China out of poverty (in marked contrast to neighbouring India where it had been endowed with a democratic system and a relatively robust infrastructure - that had not been ravaged by invasion, then civil war, then a Cultural Revolution - that to this day hundreds of millions of Indians defecate out in the open because they have no access to toilets!

    In short, change comes from within.

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