Ted Henken on How Internet Access Is Changing Cuba –

In many cities, thousands of Cubans protested the Communist regime in Cuba and the chronic food and energy shortages that plague the country.

They were among the largest anti-government protests held in Cuba for decades. They were enabled by social media and the internet, which came to Cuba in a big way only in late 2018, when President Miguel Díaz-Canel allowed citizens access to data plans on their cellphones.

You can learn more about how Facebook, YouTube and WhatsApp connect Cubans and undermine state control by learning more. There are reasonsNick Gillespie of’s Nick Gillespie talked with Ted Henken. He is a professor of sociology at City University of New York’s Baruch College. He also co-edits the book Cuba’s Digital Revolution (University Press of Florida).

Q: When did the internet arrive in Cuba?

A: You had an era in which Cuba was actually quite technologically advanced in the region. This period was in the late ’90s. Fidel [Castro]It was called “a wild colt” that had to be controlled. It was a threat to monopoly information control which is an essential feature of the Cuban system.

When Raúl Castro became president in 2008 and gradually thereafter, Cubans started getting very gradually online. They began to buy cellphones. The ability to purchase and use laptop computers became a reality. Internet grew from 3 percent connectivity in about 2008 to 15 or 20 percent by around 2015, enabled partly by the government rollout of internet cafés. Next, Cubans had Wi-Fi hotspots. These were mostly located in parks.

Q: How did Cuba allow mobile internet to be used on its phones?

A: Due to accumulated demand and pressure. Cuba is also in continuous economic crisis. It is inefficient. It doesn’t produce any results. There are no incentive structures. The government views internet access as a cow because it owns the only telecom monopoly and is therefore the main provider.

Q: Did the demonstrations that you recorded online not just take place in Havana? 

A: They are unique because of this. Cuba would not have expected one of these events to occur. Amazing is the coincidence that these occurred at the same time in between 30-50 places across Cuba.

Q: Which protest or sharing images can you do via the internet? 

Q: It’s possible to sort of divide the Cuban apps into two categories. One group allows horizontal encrypted private communication and another broadcast media. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Instagram are your best options to communicate with the outside world about what is happening in Cuba. YouTube is a fourth channel. Interestingly enough, President Díaz-Canel angrily gave YouTube an endorsement when he blamed [the protests]These irresponsible and mercenary influencers are YouTubers.

Q: What if you post something to Facebook? YouTube? You are known by the government.

Answer: Yes. This is a significant change from the past 15 years. They were shouting, “We are not afraid!”

Cuban authorities control people by keeping them scared and isolated, not realizing other people have the same concerns and complaints as them, and making them fearful of being cut off. Because they can see others who are concerned, it has reduced both. They can then lose their fear.

There are many people in Cuba who speak the exact same things in public and private as in the political closet.

The interview was edited and condensed for clarity and style. You can read the full interview here. podcast version, Subscribe to Nick Gillespie Interview: The Reason