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Cuba’s Internet Connection to the World Worse Than Expected

Inspired by expansion announcements from companies such as Netflix and Airbnb into Cuba, Fabián E. Bustamante, professor of electrical engineering and computer science in the McCormick School of Engineering, and his graduate student Zachary Bischof, conducted research examining feasibility of the business ideas given the region’s notoriously weak network infrastructure. Cuba’s Internet connection to the rest of the world was found even worse than expected. “During their study, Bustamante and Bischof found that when a person in Havana searched for a topic on Google, for example, the request traveled through the marine cable to Venezuela, then through another marine cable to the United States, and finally landed at a Google server in Dallas, Texas. When the search results traveled back, it went to Miami, Florida, up to the satellite, and then back to Cuba. While the information out of Cuba took 60-70 milliseconds, it took a whopping 270 milliseconds to travel back… It takes so long that it’s almost useless.”

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The situation in Cuba has changed since this study was conducted Larry Press  –  Nov 3, 2015 6:29 PM

This study was done last spring and Cuba shifted nearly all traffic from satellite to the undersea cable in July. Also, since there is only one RIPE Atlas probe in Cuba, it may not have been representative of the whole nation even then. (The authors acknowledged that).

You can see the updated traffic data here.

The work of the Northwestern team is ongoing and I am looking forward to seeing what they do.

Thanks for your own blog post which Frank Bulk  –  Nov 3, 2015 6:52 PM

Thanks for your own blog post which confirms that Dyn.com's research is more current. You're right in what you said in your blog post, there may been an academic publishing delay, but then there shouldn't have been a press release by the school without those most current details.

I wonder how that matches up with Frank Bulk  –  Nov 3, 2015 6:49 PM

I wonder how that matches up with Dyn.com’s research:
which doesn’t talk about asymmetricity in the latest documents.

Publishing delays Larry Press  –  Nov 3, 2015 7:17 PM

Dynresearch hod no blog posts on the question of symmetry, but Doug Mador sent me an email, which led to this post last July.

They had not seen my blog and perhaps would not have issued the press release if they had. I’ve gotten in touch with the head of the group that did the work at Northwestern and he and I will keep in touch in the future.

The question is one of discoverablity and this sort of thing makes me wonder if the “long tail” blogs and sites on the Internet are in trouble. See this post on my other blog.


Actually one of URLs I listed earlier Frank Bulk  –  Nov 3, 2015 7:47 PM

Actually one of URLs I listed earlier from Dyn does talk about asymmetricity: http://research.dyn.com/2013/01/cuban-mystery-cable-activated/ I don't know how things work at Northwestern -- it's possible the PR office at the university was just waiting for the research to be published before issuing the press release, and there would normally be no reason to check back with the paper's authors. In any case, the university can make it right by issuing a short note that comments on the original press release.

Right -- that was right after they Larry Press  –  Nov 3, 2015 8:27 PM

Right—that was right after they activated the network and they subsequently told Doug that his analysis was correct.

I think you are right on the PR thing—it was posted at the time of the ACM conference. They do not seem to have a place for comments on their site.

Regardless, it gave me a chance to meet the authors of the paper and introduce him to someone in Cuba who hopefully will be able to assist him with ongoing studies.

There are worse connections... Grant Taylor  –  Nov 9, 2015 5:07 AM

There are worse connections still in active use in the world.

I have the ““pleasure of working on some systems that have connection latencies closer to 30 seconds (30,000 ms).

Thankfully the VAST majority of connections I work on have < 10 s (10,000 ms) latency.  But there are worse connections…

Where do you see that sort of Larry Press  –  Nov 9, 2015 3:01 PM

Where do you see that sort of latency? It sounds interplanetary.

Primarily long distance cross country links across Grant Taylor  –  Nov 14, 2015 7:00 AM

Primarily long distance cross country links across Russia. I've heard co-workers talk about it on bad satellite links too.

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