Data for Google services will be stored in Cuba, under a deal announced this week between the company and the Cuban government. As the Associated Press reports, the deal will not expand public internet access in Cuba, one of the world’s least-connected countries, but it is expected to decrease load times for Google services like Gmail and YouTube. Speeds for non-Google services will not be affected.
“Cubans who already have access to the internet and want to use our services can expect to see an improvement," said Marian Croak, vice president of access strategy and emerging markets, and Brett Perlmutter, head of strategy and operations at Google Cuba, in a blog post. Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt signed the deal with ETECSA, Cuba’s state-run telecommunications provider, in Havana on Monday.
Previously, data for Google services had to travel through Venezuela before reaching Cuba. President Obama has moved to normalize US relations with Cuba, though there is still no direct internet link between the island and the US. Storing Google data within Cuba will give the country faster access to the Google Cache Network, making load times for its services up to 10 times faster, according to the AP.
Internet access remains prohibitively expensive for most Cubans, and at-home connections are illegal. The Cuban internet is also heavily censored and surveilled, as rights groups have reported. The Cuban government has signaled its intent to expand access on the island, and US tech companies such as Netflix and Airbnb have launched operations in Cuba since Obama moved to normalize relations in 2014. It is unclear how relations between the two countries could change under President-elect Donald Trump.