Meanwhile in December 2014, Mr. Barack Obama made history by establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, including the loosening economic embargoes. After two months, some companies like Netflix and Airbnb arranged plans to expand networking into Cuba.
“First reaction of the people was: ‘Really?'” said Northwestern Engineering’s Fabián E. Bustamante. “As a business model, Netflix and Airbnb rely on most people having Internet access. That’s not quite the case in Cuba, so it really didn’t seem to make much sense.”
If the business ideas are feasible, Bustamante, professor of electrical engineering and computer science in Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, and his graduate student Zachary Bischof decided to measure the Internet performance of Cuba. They got the result that Cuba’s Internet connection to the rest of the world was perhaps even worse than they expected.
Bischof presented their results on October 30 in the Association for Computing Machinery’s 2015 Internet Measurement Conference in Japan.
Cuba’s history with computing and Internet is a very complicated one. The citizens of Cuba were not even allowed to own a personal computer until 2008. In 2011, Cuba completed its first under-sea fiber-optic cable, but the cable was not even activated until two years later. At present, about 25 percent of the population is able to get online and just five percent of the population has their own home Internet.
“If you’re trying to connect anywhere, you either have to connect through these marine cables or up to the satellite,” Bustamante said. “If you go up to the satellite, it would take significantly longer.”
“For one, it’s much farther to travel,” Bischof added. “And the trip is on a very interference-rich environment, which include cosmic rays.”
Since March 2015, Bustamante and Bischof have been taking measurements from a server in Havana to observe Internet traffic going in and out of Cuba. They measure the amount of time it took for information to travel in both directions, taking note of the paths of travel. In early results, the team found that information returning to Cuba took a much longer route.