Google becomes first foreign internet company to go live in Cuba

Cubans will witness great improvement in Google's services such as YouTube, Gmail and search.

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Cuban national telecom provider president Mayra Arevich shake hands after the signing of a bilateral agreement in HavanaGetty Images

Google's local servers went live in Cuba on Wednesday (26 April) months after the internet giant signed a deal with the government following former US president Barack Obama's push for better diplomatic relations with the island nation.

The servers are part of Google's global network of caching servers known as GGC nodes. While Google services were earlier accessible on the island, the network was weak as data would have to travel a long distance through a submarine cable that connects Cuba to the internet through Venezuela. However, Cubans will now be able to access Google's content much faster as local servers within the country will speed up the process.

Cuba's national telecom Etecsa officially inked a deal with Google back in December 2016, which was approved by the Obama administration in 2015. It finally switched to the service now, making the search giant the first foreign internet company to operate its servers in the country.

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How will it benefit Cubans?

The servers going live does not mean that Cubans will be able to access the internet with speeds available across the US, but will definitely be a stepping stone. Data stored in-country by Google will now load much faster than Cuba's existing setup. A significant improvement is expected in the reception of cached materials, for services like YouTube, Gmail and search.

However, everything else like other email services and websites may not be affected as their speed is still dependent on local bandwidth provided by state telecommunications provider.

Cuba has one of the lowest internet connectivity in the West and most Cubans can only access the web through a meagre 240 public access wi-fi spots scattered around the country. Moreover, it does not come cheap as an hour of internet access costs $1.50 (£1.17), which is quite high for a country where the average wage is $25 a month.

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