People in Cuba will soon get better access to Google services within the country, courtesy of a new partnership announced this week between Google and ETECSA, Cuba's government-owned telecommunications company.
Under the agreement, ETECSA will use Google's Global Cache service to cache high-bandwidth Google content like YouTube videos at a local level within the country. The goal is to reduce latency and improve quality of service for Google content for Cubans with access to the Internet, the company announced in a blog this week.
Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google's parent company Alphabet and Arevich Mayra Marin, CEO of ETECSA, on Monday signed off on the partnership in a formal ceremony in Havana, Monday.
Google Global Cache is part of Google's content delivery network. It offers a way for the company to cache high bandwidth and frequently requested content at the edge of the network and to serve it from a location close to the end user instead of from one of its data centers. The company currently has thousands of such Google supplied edge nodes deployed with the networks of Internet Service Providers and network operators in locations around the world.
According to Google, when a user makes a request for content, like a YouTube video for instance, Google DNS will direct the request to the edge node closest to the user. If the requested content is already cached on the node, the content request is fulfilled directly by that node resulting in improved performance for the user. If the content is not already cached on the node, Google will retrieve the content from one of its datacenters, serve it to the user and cache the content at the local node for future requests.
Google has claimed that Global Cache allows a large portion of popularly accessed content to be served from small nodes located inside a service provider's regional networks. The approach delivers performance improvements of up to 20 percent compared to serving content directly from data centers, the company has noted.
With this week's agreement, ETECSA will deploy the Google edge nodes within its network to enable faster delivery of Google content within Cuba.
The agreement marks a gradual expansion of Google's footprint in Cuba. Starting in 2014, when the company launched Google Chrome, Google Play and Google Analytics, the company has expanded the number of services accessible to users in the country. Recently, Google made thousands of free web extensions and themes available to users in Cuba via the Chrome web store as part of an effort to give users there more options for personalizing their browsing experience.
The Google and ETECSA agreement comes amid a thawing of relationships between the U.S. and Cuba in recent years. It's unclear whether Google has had to make any concessions in order to secure the partnership but it seems unlikely.
"From all appearances, the deal between Google and Cuba doesn't include censorship of YouTube or other content," said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "Given that the company's refusal to submit to censorship rules has led to YouTube bans in China, Iran, Pakistan, Syria and Turkmenistan, it seems likely that Google would have rejected such requests from Cuba."
Overall, the Google deal reflects a continuing warming of relations between the Cuba and the U.S., but whether that will continue after Donald Trump takes office is anything but certain, he added, "Trump has already promised to dial back or reverse detente between the countries unless Cuba makes further concessions but it's unclear how that might impact the Google caching service agreement,” King said.