Biden considering US intervention in Cuba to restore internet access

Could Biden send giant BALLOONS to Cuba to give island internet? Ron DeSantis tells White House to send floating WiFi hotspots as US considers ‘intervention’ to fix widespread blackouts

  • President Joe Biden said he is considering ways to restore internet access to the people of Cuba after government disabled it
  • ‘They’ve cut off access to the internet. We’re considering whether we have the technology to reinstate that access,’ Biden said 
  • Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis , a possible 2024 WH candidate, asked Biden for federal assistance to provide Internet access to the people of Cuba  
  • De Santis has suggested using giant balloons as floating WiFi hotspots
  • The stratospheric balloons could be stationed 20 miles off of Cuba – but would need FAA and Department of Defense approval  
  • Similar were used to provide internet access during Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017
  • Psiphon, the company behind an internet circumvention tool, said 1.4million Cubans had signed up as of Friday 

President Joe Biden on Thursday said he is considering ways to restore internet access to the people of Cuba after its government blocked it to stop news and images from the protests from getting out.  

‘They’ve cut off access to the internet. We’re considering whether we have the technology to reinstate that access,’ Biden said at the White House during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. 

The Biden administration is considering numerous options to restore internet and according to Politico, has discussed the feasibility of using Raven – a company behind stratospheric internet balloons.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said the balloons would be deployed around 20 miles off Cuba, but would require Department of Defense and Federal Aviation Administration approval.

The internet blackout, enacted Sunday after protests over food shortages began, have left much of the island without the ability to communicate. 

Psiphon, the company behind an internet circumvention tool that is backed by the U.S. government, said 1.4million Cubans had signed up as of Friday. But that accounts for only 20 percent of the population. 

Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seen as a top contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 should he run, asked Biden on Wednesday for federal assistance to provide Internet access to the people of Cuba. 

In his letter to Biden, DeSantis noted: ‘The Cuban people have lost their ability to communicate with one another, and many Floridians born in Cuba have no information on the safety of their loved ones. Equally as important, the world has also lost the ability to see what is happening on the ground as the Cuban people rise in support of freedom.’ 


President Joe Biden said he is considering ways to restore internet access to the people of Cuba after government disabled it. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has told the administration to send giant internet balloons to the island to act as floating WiFi hotspots 

He called on Biden to provide the necessary authorizations and funding to help boost Internet access on the island.  

Additionally, DeSantis held a press conference on Thursday in Florida to highlight the issue as he seeks a second term as governor in next year’s election.

‘The one thing that communist regimes fear the most, is the truth. And if we’re able to help Cubans communicate with one another, also communicate to the outside world, that truth is going to matter, that truth, I think, will be decisive,’ DeSantis said. ‘And so, Mr. President, now’s the time to stand up and be counted.’

DeSantis said every option should be explored, including using offshore and satellite technology to supply internet service, even using hot air balloons as to provide connectivity. 

The balloons would hold transmitters to get a signal around. There were used around Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria struck that island.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged on Thursday that the lack of internet ‘is a huge issue in Cuba and one that is very challenging for the people of Cuba so they can gain access to accurate information they can correspond with family members and others.’

‘We are certainly looking at that to see what can be done to address, but in terms of that specific proposal I don’t have an assessment of that,’ she added. 

At the White House on Thursday, Biden also called communism a ‘failed system’ after he faced criticism from conservatives and some Florida Democrats for not showing strong enough support for the protesters in Cuba.

‘Communism is a failed system, universally fail system. And I don’t see socialism as a very useful substitute,’ Biden said.

The White House had given a more measured response to the protests that took place over food shortages and power outages on the island nation, refusing to call out the ‘communist’ government but denounced the ‘authoritative regime’ instead. 

Cuba is suffering its worst crisis in years from a combination of the coronavirus pandemic that has paralyzed its economy, including the vital tourism industry, inefficiencies in the state-run economy and the tightening of U.S. sanctions on the island. 

The country has been governed by the Communist Party for some six decades. 

GIANT BALLOONS, SATELLITES AND CIRCUMVENTION TOOLS: HOW THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION COULD GIVE CUBA INTERNET

GIANT BALLOONS 

The high-altitude balloons, roughly the size of a tennis court, are a way to get internet access to remote areas and were used around Puerto Rico in 2017 when Hurricane Maria hit

On Thursday Ron DeSantis suggested the Biden administration send balloons to Cuba to act as floating WiFi hotpots to help the island’s people get back online after the communist regime shut down their access.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said the balloons would be deployed around 20 miles off Cuba, but would require Department of Defense and Federal Aviation Administration approval.

It is also not clear how much they would cost and how much time it would take to implement. 

The high-altitude balloons, roughly the size of a tennis court, are a way to get internet access to remote areas and were used around Puerto Rico in 2017 when Hurricane Maria hit.  

The balloons travel approximately 12 miles (20km) above the Earth’s surface in the stratosphere.

Winds in the stratosphere are stratified, and each layer of wind varies in speed and direction, so the balloons use software algorithms to determine where its balloons need to go.

It then moves each one into a layer of wind blowing in the right direction. By moving with the wind, the balloons can be arranged to form one large communications network.

The balloons harness power from card table-sized solar panels that dangle below them, and they can gather enough charge in four hours to power them for a day.

Each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area of around 25 miles (40km) in diameter using LTE, also referred to as 4G, technology.

Google’s parent company Alphabet had an internet balloon business called Project Loon. The firm was responsible for sending them to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Maria and also deployed them in remote areas of Kenya.

Alphabet had hoped to put thousands of balloons in the stratosphere, but in January 2020, the CEO said the project was no longer commercially viable and shut it down.  

However Raven Industries partnered with Google and was heavily involved in the project for nearly a decade.

They still have the technology, so could be tapped if the Biden administration decides to go down that route. 

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr said he has discussed the use of Raven, but also suggested other forms of technology. 

INTERNET CIRCUMVENTION TOOLS   

Psiphon Inc’s freely available internet censorship circumvention tool has about helped nearly 1.4 million Cubans this week gain access to websites, the company said on Friday, after Cuba’s government curbed access to popular social media and messaging platforms.

The Toronto-based company’s Psiphon Network receives U.S. government financial support and also helped people in other countries including Iran and China overcome governmental restrictions on internet access. 

Psiphon said 1.389 million users accessed the open web from Cuba through its network on Thursday, as well as 1.238 million as noon EDT on Friday.

Psiphon said the roughly 1.4 million represents about 20 percent of Cuban internet users. 

Its open source circumvention tool can be downloaded from app stores like Google Play or Apple to ‘maximize your chances of bypassing censorship,’ according to the company. Canadian university researchers developed the software in 2007 to let users evade governmental internet firewalls. 

‘We must stand with those opposing authoritarian regimes,’ said U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn, a congressional supporter of U.S. funding for the network. 

PRIVATE SATELLITE

Senator Bob Menendez told MSNBC on Tuesday the US should be ‘looking at how we can expand access to the internet, consider satellite feeds of the internet so people in the island can communicate with each other.’

DeSantis also suggested the US may be able to beam satellite to help the protesters get back online and called on private companies to offer up their services.

Part of the reason the Cuba government shut down the internet was because they blamed US social media ‘campaigns’ for the unrest. 

SpaceX launched a new batch of Starlinks Tuesday using a recycled Falcon 9 rocket to ferry the internet satellites to space. The rocket took off at 3:01pm ET from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida as blue skies covered the area

Space X have invested $10billion in their Starlink satellites. Elon Musk said in June that more 1,500 satellites aloft and expects service to go global by August.

Starlink satellites are at around 300 miles (500km) above the surface.

They form a constellation of thousands of satellites, designed to provide low-cost broadband internet service from low Earth orbit.

The constellation, informally known as Starlink, and under development at SpaceX’s facilities in Redmond, Washington.

Its goal is to beam superfast internet into your home from space.

DeSantis, a possible 2024 WH candidate, asked Biden for federal assistance to provide Internet access to the people of Cuba

 Cuban protested lack of food shortages in their country

Biden was under pressure from critics to speak out more strongly about the protests

People hold Cuban and US flags as they march during a protest showing support for Cubans demonstrating against their government, in Hialeah, Florida on July 15

Crowds gathered for more protests in Hialeah, Florida on July 15 following unprecedented unrest in Cuba earlier this week

People chant during a protest showing support for Cubans demonstrating against their government, in Hialeah, Florida on July 15

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other officials pressed the White House on Thursday to support efforts to preserve internet service to antigovernment protesters in Cuba, even advocating the use of giant balloons as floating Wi-Fi hotspots to allow images of dissent to stream unabated from the authoritarian nation. Pictured: A protester in Florida on July 15

Florida Democrats want Biden to come to Miami to give a pro-democracy and human rights speech that would address the situation in Cuba but could also tie in Haiti. 

A part of the Florida Democrats’ concerns is that Biden is missing an opportunity to court the crucial Hispanic vote, which Biden dramatically under performed with in Florida during the 2020 election.

The Cuban vote is particularly powerful in that swing state. Donald Trump won Florida’s Cuban vote 56% to Biden’s 41% in last year’s election, which helped the former president carry the state.  

‘I really believe this is one of those moments, I put it up with the moment of ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall’ because I do believe we can give the hope to the people in Cuba,’ Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo told the Miami Herald. ‘It’s really about the people in Cuba who need to hear it. The words of the president of the U.S., be it Republican or Democrat, should matter.’

Some Democrats worried Biden was taking the lead of liberals and being too cautious in his early statements. While progressives, like Sen. Bernie Sanders, expressed support for the protests, they said nothing about totalitarian government.

‘All people have the right to protest and to live in a democratic society. I call on the Cuban government to respect opposition rights and refrain from violence. It’s also long past time to end the unilateral U.S. embargo on Cuba, which has only hurt, not helped, the Cuban people,’ wrote Sanders on Twitter. 

In the protests, many Cubans expressed anger over long lines and shortages of food and medicines, as well as repeated electricity outages. But there were also calls for political change in a country governed by the Communist Party for some six decades.

Police arrested dozens of protesters, sometimes violently, and the government has accused protesters of looting and vandalizing shops. Smaller protests continued Monday and officials reported at least one death. No incidents were reported Wednesday.  

Republicans, in contrast, have taken a much tougher stance on the Cuban government. 

Miami-Dade Democratic Party chairman Steve Simeonidis issued a warning on DeSantis, who is seeking a second term in the gubernatorial campaign in next year’s election. 

‘The fact that Ron DeSantis is pretending to lead on this issue while completely making it partisan shows that this is a political game he’s playing ahead of his reelection campaign,’ Simeonidis said. ‘I don’t think there’s anything that Joe Biden could do on any issue that would receive any praise from South Florida Republican elected officials.’ 

People protest to show support for Cubans demonstrating against their government in Miami

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ letter to President Joe Biden on the situation in Cuba

Source: Read Full Article