Google Signs Deal with Cuba to Speed its Services

Yesterday, Google signed a deal with the Cuban government to increase the speed of service for some of the company’s most popular services. This comes a week after a story leaked indicating that the Obama administration was pushing deals between the Cuban government and both GE and Google. It comes just days after Alphabet Inc. Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt was spotted in one of Havana’s best live music venues, Diablo Tun Tun, on Thursday, and a few days after another story leaked of the specifics of the deal.

Can you spot Eric Schmidt in this crowded Havana bar? Hint: Pink shirt and glasses

The deal is part of the Google Global Cache program, which stores data from some of the company’s most popular services on servers closer to the end users. The deal will increase the speeds of products like Gmail, YouTube, and Drive by up to ten percent. Currently, data must travel from Cuba through Venezuela to reach Google’s servers.

As we wrote about earlier this year, Google made its first foray into Cuba by partnering with the famous Cuban artist Kcho to install an internet hub in his Havana studio. Though modest, the center provided relatively high speed internet to any Cuban willing to wait in line for access to one of the center’s few Google Chromebooks.

It’s tempting to call it a cap to a tumultuous year in Cuba, but there’s still another 19 days left in 2016, and we’re not calling it yet. In the year of an Obama visit, a Rolling Stones concert, a Chanel show, the election of Donald Trump and the death of Fidel Castro, it’s almost impossible to predict what news is next for Cuba. One can only hope that it’s good.

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