Gimme Cable!

“Gimme cable!”* A phrase that made the Karl Marx theater in Havana go mad in the eighties, coming from Venezuela in the voice of Oscar de León. After those concerts, Cuban popular music was never the same. And now from Venezuela comes a fiber optic cable to our disconnected island.

On this occasion, the shout “Gimme cable!” will not be backed up by a choir. The cable was brought by a ship with modern technology by the company Alcatel-Shanghai-Bell.Presumably the Chinese will also bring their expertise and infrastructure to set up a blockade of “enemy propaganda.” Their efficient censorship filters could work for Venezuela and Cuba. Nothing escapes the Venezuelan government’s steps to curtail citizen liberties and control the mass media, questions successfully resolved by the Cuban government. This cable incorporates the possibility of real-time high-security exchanges between the two governments on sensitive issues like the economy and national security.

Such developments have aroused great enthusiasm among the population. A few months ago the Cuban Minister of Information Science and Communications declared that there will be no growth in users (individuals, that is). This despite is 640 gigabytes per second.

Still, I’m optimistic. And not only because of the recent declarations by a high official in Information Sciences and Communications who said, “There is not political obstacle to bringing the Internet to all places, including homes.” Right now, with the skimpy and slow satellite connection, many officials and technicians rent and hack Internet time. New State workers will receive broadband service and, despite regulations and control, their need to augment their salaries, or simple desire for money, will bring more unauthorized users and a sophistication in methods for jumping the barriers, an additional incentive for the young nerds who enjoy these challenges as if they were a game.

I spoke with a webmaster who supposes the cable has owners. A limited group of people from the Cuban and Venezuelan governments who are major shareholders in Gran Caribe S.A., for starters. A couple dedicated to downloading and burning movies for rent with an internet sublease, will be able to accomplish in five minutes with the fiber optic cable what now takes three days. A retired programmer is convinced that he will get a connection.

Something more. Those with legal access to the benefits of the high speed will be diffusers, conscious or otherwise, of the information denied to us by censorship and control. This phenomenon appeared some years ago in our society, has been growing, and is unstoppable.

So nearly thirty years after the cry, “Gimme cable!” of a Venezuelan musician changed forever popular Cuban music, the fiber optic cable: submarine, underground, silent, shark-proof, comes to forever change Cuban life.

*Translator’s Note: Oscar de León is a Venezuelan musician. During a concert in Cuba he shouted at his technician, “Gimme cable” as he waded into the audience with his microphone.

March 4 2011

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