TAMPA, Fla. – President Biden faced growing pressure from Governor Ron DeSantis Monday after the governor spoke out for the second time in less than a week about Cuba’s internet crisis, asking for the White House to help people in Cuba communicate with each other and the outside world.
It’s now been more than a week and protesters in Tampa are still in the dark about their loved ones in Cuba. When protests broke out there early last week, the government shut down the internet in an attempt to stop future demonstrations.
“We in the United States have the capability to provide the connectivity that I think would be essential in exposing the truth,” Governor DeSantis told reporters during a news conference Monday.
Wednesday, the governor sent a letter to President Biden asking him to help.
“The vast majority of internet users are on mobile devices so it’s not even like they really need huge broadband like you would have with a home PC,” Symphony Agency Chief Digital Officer Chris Jenkins said.
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As cyber expert Chris Jenkins explains, providing internet to a remote country like Cuba doesn’t come without challenges, but it can be done and has been before.
In 2017, Google used balloons to provide internet to people in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria destroyed the island’s mobile network.
“They’re using photo-sensitive reflective surfaces and they’re shooting a laser at it,” Jenkins said.
The program is known as Loon and it’s the same project the governor and U.S. Rep. Maria Salazar want the U.S. government to look into.
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“We put together a vaccine in 9 months. Don’t you think we could put together a balloon in a few days,” U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar said.
FOX 13 reached out to Google Monday and is still waiting to hear back about whether the company plans to help bring internet to Cuba.
“We’re considering whether we have the technological ability to reinstate that access,” President Biden told reporters Thursday.
As of right now, it’s unclear how much it could cost to provide internet to people in Cuba and how soon it could happen.