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Cuba and French telecoms operator Orange begin work on subsea cable

Cuba said on Thursday it had begun work with French telecoms operator Orange on an underwater cable that will link it to the island of Martinique in a bid to beef up the its connection to global internet and broadband corridors.

The announcement comes one week after the Biden administration urged U.S. regulators to deny submarine cable operator ARCOS-1 USA’s application to connect Cuba to the United States through a new undersea cable landing station, drawing criticism from Cuban officials.

Cuban state-run telecoms operator ETECSA announced on Wednesday the alternative undersea cable project, called ARIMAO, noting in a statement that “all the permissions are in place for its deployment.”

The statement did not specify the cable’s capacity or cost.

On Thursday, work had begun on the project, according to Tania Velazquez, president of ETECSA.

“Today the official act was held to begin the technical work of installing the new submarine cable, the joint work of ETECSA and Orange, which will allow the diversification of Internet connection routes in Cuba,” Velazquez said on Twitter.

Until 2013, internet access was limited in Cuba.

The government has increased Web access in recent years, in part thanks to the installation of the ALBA-1 fiber-optic cable to political ally Venezuela, the country´s only existing undersea telecoms connection to the rest of the world.

But as more and more Cubans get online and demand soars, Cuba has increasingly sought alternative avenues to link to global telecommunication corridors. Around 300 subsea cables form the backbone of the internet, carrying 99% of the world’s data traffic.

Cuba´s partner in the project, French telecoms operator Orange, was in 2020 ordered by a Paris court to pay local rival Digicel compensation for anti-competitive practices in the French Caribbean, including Martinique. Reuters

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