Cablegate: Surfing the Net in Havana
DE RUEHUB #0660 2271809
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 141809Z AUG 08
FM USINT HAVANA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 3627
UNCLAS HAVANA 000660
FOR WHA/CCA, DRL AND R-BUD JACOBS
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EINT TINT KDEM KPAO CU
SUBJECT: SURFING THE NET IN HAVANA
1. (SBU) Chief of Mission and spouse (providing technical
support) set forth Tuesday afternoon to cruise the internet,
Havana-style. Armed with a list of internet centers supplied
by the PD section's local staff, COM wanted to check what he
had heard from Cuban users of USINT's internet facilities as
to the limitations on Internet access elsewhere.
2. (SBU) Our first stop on the list was a GOC site with two
Internet centers. It looked promising: at the entrance was a
sign listing prices -- six dollars an hour, three dollars for
thirty minutes. Unfortunately, the lady at the entrance
informed us the center was closed for the day. At our second
stop, another GOC site listed with one Internet center, we
were told they had no Internet, but the employees helpfully
pointed out a hotel a block away that for certain offered
Internet. Wandering over to the hotel's front desk, we were
told that they used to have an Internet center but closed it
down when they began to offer Internet in the hotel rooms.
One computer remained for public access, but it was located
in an open air patio and thus frequently was broken, as was
the case that afternoon.
3. (SBU) However, the front desk pointed us in the direction
of another hotel four blocks away. Upon arrival, we
discovered the Internet center tucked away on the third
floor. Five terminals, $6 dollars an hour, with the
clientele a mix of Cubans and Spanish-speaking tourists.
WHERE CAN ONE SURF?
4. (SBU) Using Google Cuba's (google.cu) web browser, you
can access the USINT website, the Department of State, or the
United Nations. You can read on-line the Washington Post or
New York Times. You can access the websites of international
human rights NGOs, such as Human Rights Watch or Amnesty
International, and even download the entire HRW 2007 report
if you have patience and twenty minutes to spare. Access is
by satellite, and speeds were only a bit slower than those in
USINT or in the Chief of Mission's residence.
WHERE IS SURFING PROHIBITED?
5. (SBU) You cannot change your browser from Google.cu to
Google.com, or to Google.ch (Switzerland) or even to
Google.cr (China). You cannot access the webpages of some
past and present USG grantees for Cuba programs, such as
Directorio Democratico Cubano, the Cuba Center for a Free
Cuba, or the Grupo de Apoyo a la Disidencia. If the
Google.cu browser is set on the "Cuba pages" option, the
results of Google searches are strikingly different from a
search done using Google.com. Typing in USINT using
Google.com, for example, yields the USINT webpage as the
number one site. Typing in USINT using the Cuba pages
browser yields a long list of vitriolic GOC sites depicting
skullduggery between USINT and the Cuban dissident community.
6. (SBU) The Internet center operator said that users stick
mostly to e-mail, not surprising at a cost of six dollars an
hour. Buying an Internet card is easy if one can afford it,
and the cards last for thirty days. USINT will be looking
more into the evolving local conditions for Internet, and how
this can be used in our outreach and website operations.
USINT welcomes input from Washington, where ongoing work on
programs to evade Internet filters may have relevance here.