SOURCE: BUSINESS WEEK
A top Cuban communications official said Monday that the communist government is wary of a Miami company’s plan to run a fiber optic cable to the island and it hasn’t yet even been asked for permission.
TeleCuba Communications Inc. announced on Oct. 13 that it had received U.S. Treasury Department approval to lay about 110 miles (175 kilometers) of cable from Florida to Cuban territory — seemingly a significant dent in the U.S. embargo against the island.
But Francisco Hartmann, director of strategy for Cuba’s national Office of Information, said his government has “no official knowledge that there is interest to negotiate” such a project, and he indicated they may frown on it if asked.
“If all the information that we have passes by cable to Florida, that technological independence, the sovereignty that for us is so important, what will happen to it?” he asked at a news conference.
TeleCuba said the cable, following the route of a defunct 1950s copper telephone cable from Key West, Florida, to the Havana suburb of Cojimar could be operational by the middle of 2011.
It acknowledged that it had not obtained Cuban permission to bring the cable ashore. No one answered the phone at TeleCuba’s office on Monday.
Instead of the TeleCuba proposal, Hartmann said Cuba is content to wait for a much longer, 960-mile (1,550-kilometer) undersea cable that its socialist ally Venezuela plans to run to the island.
Work on that project has not begun either, though Venezuelan officials said it could be finished “in less than two years” when they announced it in February 2007.
Venezuela’s science and technology minister, Jesse Chacon, said recently that work on his country’s line to the island would begin soon.
Cuba is the only nation in the Western Hemisphere that is not linked to the outside world by fiber optics. Instead, it relies on slow, expensive satellite links, mostly from Europe, because Washington’s 47-year-old embargo prevents most trade between the island and the United States.
A fiber link would likely mean cheaper overseas phone calls and faster Internet service for Cubans, though the government imposes strict limits on access to cyberspace.
SOURCE: BUSINESS WEEK