After arriving in Cuba for his historic visit there, President Barack Obama told ABC News on Sunday that Google will begin working to expand Internet connectivity on the island nation. Currently, only about 5 percent of Cubans have access to the Internet.
“One of the things that we’ll be announcing here is that Google has a deal to start setting up more Wi-Fi and broadband access on the island,” Obama told ABC’s David Muir.
Politico reported in June that Google was considering a move into Cuban broadband and was negotiating with the Cuban government. A representative said at the time that the company would “focus on helping the Cuban government think through their publicly-stated goal of improving Internet access.”
This summer, the Cuban telecom ETECSA set up Wi-Fi hot spots that Cubans can pay to use, but prices are steep. ETECSA also announced in February that it was bringing broadband to two Havana neighborhoods through a partnership with Chinese telecom Huawei.
Improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba should eventually contribute to expanded Internet availability and the proliferation of mobile devices on the island, but the country won’t be able to catch up overnight. As Ellery Biddle wrote on Slate in December, “More than ever, news and information that once traveled only by word of mouth will now circulate more quickly and in greater volume. And Cubans’ ability to communicate with friends and family abroad will likely increase, too.”