Surfing the Cuban web is logistically challenging, prohibitively expensive, and rarely private. Ranked as one of the world's least connected countries, Cuba operates under a censorship model different from, say, China's: instead of blocking Internet content outright, the privilege is made ultra-scarce, available only at designated (and surveilled) Wifi hotspots at $2 per hour—and highly profitable for the Castro regime.
Yet, thanks to the extraordinary creativity—and rebelliousness—of Cuba's well-educated, but underemployed, millennials, the island was never entirely closed off. Pioneered by an army of hackers, hustlers and pirates, two separate underground networks allow Cubans to watch 'Game of Thrones' and download smartphone apps, as well as shopping, dating and playing 'World of Warcraft' online.
Here, as much as elsewhere, the Internet is equal parts escapism and business opportunity, and Cuba’s restrictions have unleashed defiant innovation, embodied by La Red de La Calle ("the net of the street"): a home-made network, functioning as a de-facto miniature internet, with chatrooms, dating portals, and social networks. Then there is 'El Paquete Semanal' ("the weekly package"): a 1-TB hard drive of curated Youtube videos, news, telenovelas and Hollywood films, delivered to households nationwide.
Reporting from Havana on the nascent online culture of a Cuba in transition, journalist Kim Wall tells the story of the nation's defiance in importing, delivering, and creating culture.