The US is considering ways to provide the people of Cuba with internet access, President Biden said on Thursday. The Cuban government reportedly cut off internet access in response to protests that took place earlier in the week, but according to AFP, the access was restored Wednesday, although social media sites are still restricted.
“They have cut off access to the internet. We are considering whether we have the technological ability to reinstate that access,” Biden said at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
It’s not clear how the US would provide internet inside Cuba since the government would likely view it as a violation of sovereignty. Biden made the comments after Florida Governor Ron Desantis sent the president a letter urging for the federal government to take action to restore the internet. Desantis insisted that the technology to do it remotely exists.
“Technology exists to provide Internet access into Cuba remotely, using the innovation of American enterprise and the diverse industries here,” Desantis wrote. He drew parallels to the Cold War when the US government-funded radio broadcasting into the Soviet Union.
“Similar to the American efforts to broadcast radio into the Soviet Union during the Cold War in Europe, the federal government has a history of supporting the dissemination of information into Cuba for the Cuban people through Radio & Televisión Martí, located in Miami,” he said.
Radio & Televisión Martí is a US state-funded radio broadcaster that started in the 1980s to transmit news into Cuba. It was based on the model of Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty, which was initially funded by the CIA and broadcast in Soviet states.
“I urge you to act immediately to provide all necessary authorizations, indemnifications, and funding to American businesses with the capability to provide Internet access for the people of Cuba. Steps must be taken immediately,” Desantis wrote.
On Tuesday, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez accused the US of inciting unrest in Cuba through a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #SOSCuba. It’s not clear if the US government was involved in the Twitter campaign, but Washington has a history of trying to use social media to stir unrest in Cuba.
In 2010, the US launched a social media network in Cuba that used text messages known as ZunZuneo. US government documents revealed in 2014 showed that the idea of the project was to develop a “Cuban Twitter” that would build a userbase using “non-controversial content.” Then, when there were a substantial number of users, the US operator would introduce political content to form “smart mobs” to rally against the government.
ZunZuneo reached a peak of 40,000 users, but was dissolved in 2012. While it sounds like a CIA project, ZunZuneo was funded by the US Agency for International Development.