13th December 2022

Just days after the US Justice Department recommended the US Federal Communications Commission deny an application seeking the installation of a direct submarine telecommunications cable connecting Cuba and the US, Cuba and France have announced that a French company is installing a subsea cable between Cuba and Martinique.

The agreement between the Cuban state telecommunications company ETECSA and the French multinational Orange SA will see the link become operational next year, providing onward international links to the multiple undersea cables that serve the French speaking island.

According to ETECSA, work is to begin shortly on the laying of a 2,500km ARIMAO cable able to carry internet, data, and voice communications between a location in Cienfuegos and the eastern Caribbean Island of Martinique, which as a French Département d’outre-mer, is a peripheral but integral part of the European Union.

Speaking to Juventud Rebelde about the new telecoms link, the President of ETECSA, Tania Velázquez, said that it will provide a “robust and effective solution to expand communication capacities enabling Cuba and Cubans to interact with the world.” It will, she said, allow ETECSA to expand and diversify its international capacities to meet the demand for Internet connection and broadband services” and more generally to support its international expansion.

In making the announcement ETECSA said that all necessary permits were in place and that “the physical structure” of the cable will be ready in 2023. This will allow, Velázquez told the state publication, the company to continue expand connectivity.  At present Cuba has only one international submarine internet cable, ALBA-1, which provides links to and through Venezuela. It has been operational since 2012 but has not the capacity to meet present demand.

The new cable will be laid by Orange Marine. The decision will geographically diversify current connectivity and improve indirectly Cuba’s telecoms links to the US.

As reported in Cuba Briefing 5 December 2022 the US Department of Justice expressly advised against the installation of the proposed ARCOS-1 USA cable planned by Verizon and multiple Latin telecoms providers on the basis that ETECSA would manage the cable landing, and this posed a security threat enabling “access to sensitive US data traveling through the new cable”.

Following the US decision, Cuban media outlets have republished a report appearing in the leading Mexican daily, La Jornada, noting that the US decision based on the alleged danger that other “foreign adversaries” would use Cuba as a gateway to access US networks, was “ridiculous.”. The publication noted that the long-standing existing ARCOS-1 network which Cuba had hoped to link to, connects 24 international internet anchor points from 15 countries accessible to “US adversaries including China and Russia”, most of which are anyway routed through the vast Network Access Point (NAP) of the Americas data centre and Internet exchange point which is located in Miami.

Photo by Jackson David 

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