An interesting article by Jose Fernandez and Eric Lorber in the most recent issue of Foreign Affairs discusses the future of the telecom sector in an embargo-free Cuba. Whether you agree or disagree with the decision to end the embargo, most can find gratification knowing that many more people will have broadband access.
Cuba has one of the lowest levels of Internet penetration in the world. According to the International Telecommunication Union, only 25 percent of Cubans have access to the Web, and those connections are slow and often monitored by the government. Meanwhile, Cuban telecom penetration rates are the lowest in Latin America: ETECSA, Cuba’s sole telephone company, serves only 18 percent of Cubans—a lower percentage than war-torn Afghanistan. Increasing Internet access will have economic and political benefits for the Cuban people, as Internet connectivity can drive long-term economic development by facilitating efficient information distribution, lowering transaction costs, and reducing barriers to entry for entrepreneurs. According to the World Bank, there is a 1.3 percent rise in economic growth for every ten-percentage-point increase in a country’s high-speed Internet connections.
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For the development of the telecommunications sector to have the intended effect of bringing Cubans information from the outside world, and for U.S. companies to become involved, Cubans will need the kind of Internet access that the government will be loath to grant. But unlike in the past, Havana will no longer have the U.S. embargo to blame.
Read the full article here.