Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Graham Sowa: Our Man @ Havana (Times)

Here's an interesting, nuanced article on the Internet in Cuba by Graham Sowa entitled, "My First Interview in Cuba," to get you thinking published at the increasingly rich and penetrating Havana Times. (You can read more from Sowa about technology and connectivity here, here, and here.)

Sowa is a "good ole' boy" from Grapevine, Texas who is enrolled in the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Havana. (More on that here.)

In the article, he relates the experience being interviewed about Cuban Internet access by a team of somewhat ill-informed (in his estimation) visiting students from SUNY Stony Brook. The article also touches on the debate in the U.S. over net neutrality and what Sowa sees as a tendency toward American arrogance, ignorance, decontextualization, and hypocrisy when covering Cuba.

Sowa sums up his argument with these words:

"The limited Internet access in Cuba is not a moral anomaly nor does it occur in a vacuum."


  1. Professor Henken, Do you think that internet access is a human right? Why or why not?

  2. Hello Mr. Henken,

    My name is Ethan Freedman and I am the student journalist mentioned in Mr. Sowa's article. Internet was one of the three topics I covered from Havana, and I thought I might want to share the contents of our trip here, since you blogged about it. I did articles on Che Guevara, Internet and Americans who have received political asylum in Cuba.

    The site for all the student work is here:

    As for the article, I had developed an idea of how the Internet functions in a country like Cuba, not because of arrogance, ignorance, or hypocrisy, but because I found it to be statistically true. I felt that the access to the Internet there was empirically bad for most, particularly when compared to the United States.

    There are several statistics I list in the article, one about internet penetration citing the World Bank and a study from the International Telecommunications Union that found that Cuban access to internet and cell-phone service ranked 149th in the world, out of the 152 countries it looked at.

    Several other statistics I found were cut out of the article by my editors. One was one from the Internet information provider Akamai Technologies, Inc. They found that 93 percent of Cubans have a narrowband connectivity (a limited Internet connection less than 256 Kbps), compared to the global average of 3.9 percent.

    Furthermore, Cuba, at least for most, uses an "Intranet", regulated by a third party, in this case, the government, as opposed to an Internet, which is unregulated (I completely agree with Sowa on Net Neutrality, but I'm writing a story on Cuban Internet, not American). Other countries that have "Intranet"? North Korea and China. And, soon to be, Iran.

    I get that things should always be put into context. That's why I'm posting the article here. Hope you have time to read it.

    The article on Cuban Internet: