As far as the Internet goes, few countries are as isolated as Cuba.
It’s got one of the lowest Internet penetration rates in the Western hemisphere. Few, if any, private homes have a connection. Those fortunate enough to get online do so at hotels and Internet cafes where speeds are slow, and the costs can be astronomical (especially in a country where the average monthly wage hovers around the $20 mark).
But things are starting to change. America is experiencing period of glasnost with its former adversary. Americans are now legally able to visit the island for tourism purposes, and there are direct flights between Havana and Miami. And now, Google’s looking at how it can best serve the largely untapped Cuban market.
The Associated Press reports that Google has inked a deal with the Cuban government to place servers on Cuban soil, which will be used to serve the post popular Google content.
The United States still lacks direct data access to the island. As a result, if a data packet was to travel from a server in Mountain View to a user in Cuba, it would have to be routed via Venezuela.
Deploying servers on Cuban territory will vastly increase the speed in which the scarce few Cuban Internet users can access Google services. YouTube and Gmail could both be up to 10 times faster for users inside Cuba.
Google isn’t the first American tech company to open shop in Cuba. Earlier this year, both Netflix and AirBnB began to offer their services to Cuban consumers. There are promising signs the Internet situation is improving, too, with the Cuban government recently authorizing the island’s first free public Wi-Fi hotspot.