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Google data servers begin going live in Cuba

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Google has become the first foreign company to go live with a data server in Cuba. The launch should improve the speed and reliability of Google services within the country, though they won’t do anything about the extremely limited access Cubans have to the internet.

Dyn Research spotted the launch on Wednesday, writing that Google’s first server had gone live within the last 24 hours. “It is a milestone as this is the first time an outside internet company has hosted anything in Cuba,” wrote Doug Madory, the company’s director, according to the Miami Herald.

Google confirmed in an email to The Verge that the servers, known as Google Global Cache, had gone live “more than 24 hours ago.”

Google announced plans to launch in Cuba back December, after signing a deal with ETECSA, the state-run internet provider. At the time, Google said the deal would let ETECSA deliver some of its bandwidth intensive content, like YouTube videos, from local storage, rather than having to reach out to Google servers in another country. BuzzFeed reports that Cuba currently connects through Venezuela.

“This will only improve Cuban users experience with Google webpages, with the most notable improvement being in loading YouTube videos,” Madory wrote in an email, reported on by the Herald. “Video is very traffic intensive, and caching popular videos locally will improve load time and relieve strain on ETECSA’s congested international links.”

But all this is still only useful to the people in Cuba who can afford to get online. The Associated Press reports that it costs about $1.50 to get a slow internet connection for just an hour — a steep price in a country where the average monthly salary is $25. Though public Wi-Fi spots, the report says, have been growing more common.

While Google’s first server may have come online, it’s not entirely clear if it’s in active use yet. BuzzFeed reports Madory saying on Wednesday that Google wasn’t automatically directing local traffic to it, so it may be that the full system isn’t quite up and running.

Update April 27th, 4:15PM ET: This story has been updated with comment from Google.