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The Internet Censorship Networking Piracy The Media

Cuba's Nationwide Sneakernet: a Model For Developing Nations? 108

lpress writes: Cuba has little Internet infrastructure, but they have a well-organized sneaker net called El Paquete Semanal (the weekly packet). El Paquete distributes a terabyte of digital entertainment nationwide every week using portable drives. The system is reliable and the organization is said to be Cuba's largest private employer, but it is technically illegal and the content is pirated. A legitimatized Paquete would save scarce Internet resources for other applications. El Paquete is also a possible model for other developing nations. Vox has a short documentary about the system.
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Cuba's Nationwide Sneakernet: a Model For Developing Nations?

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  • It is hard to see a downside to this but for limited distribution. Can you think of a modern analog?
    • It is hard to see a downside to this but for limited distribution. Can you think of a modern analog?

      A drone delivering a thumb drive?

      As opposed to a Chevy station wagon filled with 5.25" floppies. Hey, you wanted a modern analog.

      I was searching for a car analog[y], but got only half of it.

      • "Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon loaded with backup tapes"

      • A drone delivering thumb drives would probably far surpass any radio-based system. I think the OP is probably based on something close to that.
        • A drone delivering thumb drives would probably far surpass any radio-based system.

          Except the bandwidth would drop to zero if the guy's daughter is out sunbathing by the pool and your network happens to span his backyard. The Internet routes around failures, but I don't think there is a DCMP (drone-CMP) protocol that will report "shot down" to the source host.

          • "I don't think there is a DCMP (drone-CMP) protocol that will report "shot down" to the source host."

            Of course not: this kind of protocol is point-to-point, so there're no hops. Obviously you didn't pay attention to RFC-1149 and related!

      • by lpress ( 707742 )
        A sneakernet is appropriate technology for a poor nation with lots of un and underemployment.
    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      Nah, I can't think of a downside. It is not ideal but it's better than nothing. I've been to Cuba twice and might actually go again in the near future. When I was there last, I was a bit more comfortable and even met some of the folks that I'd met the first time. I'm mostly fluent in Spanish but it's a little different in Cuba and the dialect isn't something I'm entirely familiar with - there are a few localizations that I'm unfamiliar with, for example.

      At any rate, that - the being mostly able to communica

  • I like to seem the try to muscle their way into Cuba...

    • by k6mfw ( 1182893 )
      "El Paquete distributes a terabyte of digital entertainment nationwide every week using portable drives"

      A terabyte, according to RIAA estimates, is about $2.7million which is about 16 years of Cuba's total GNP.

      • by gerddie ( 173963 )

        A terabyte, according to RIAA estimates, is about $2.7million which is about 16 years of Cuba's total GNP.

        Please check your math: Cuba's GNP in 2005 was $11.2 billion [studentsoftheworld.info] and I think it went up since.

      • by lpress ( 707742 )

        A terabyte, according to RIAA estimates, is about $2.7million which is about 16 years of Cuba's total GNP

        Can you give me a link to the source of that estimate?

    • I like to seem the try to muscle their way into Cuba...

      Population of Cuba, 11 million.
      Spanish-speaking population of the U.S., 41 million.

      Does it ever occur to the geek that the Cuban musician or filmmaker might want to cut himself a slice of that very big pie? Which would imply working with the rights agencies and not against them?

      • Does it ever occur to the geek that the Cuban musician or filmmaker might want to cut himself a slice of that very big pie?

        Well that's a reasonable enough scenario. (I accept the implication that non-Spanish speakers in America are shot, jailed, or lose their credit ratings for listening to Spanish music or art, but it's a strange and foreign land with all sorts of restrictions ; I wouldn't be surprised.)

        Which would imply working with the rights agencies and not against them?

        Then the Cuban artist works with

    • by lpress ( 707742 )
      Today, the MP.RIAA is getting $0 from Cuba. My guess is that they would be willing to negotiate for something greater than 0.
  • And instead embrace freedom and allow their impoverished citizens embrace freedom and capitalism, and exchange information that way.

    The reason that "Cuba has little Internet infrastructure" is because communism is a colossal economic and political failure. Free capitalism economies offer a much better model for getting out of poverty and building out an information infrastructure.

    • Dude, please stop. It is a dictatorship. Of course it is closed. Be relevant. Pretty please. Cherry on top.
      • by aliquis ( 678370 )

        Socialism is always a dictatorship - for some.

        You're free to argue that run-away capitalism make it so to because of inequality and the huge difference in capability.

        • Socialism is always a dictatorship - for some.

          So ... not always for others?

          You're free to argue that run-away capitalism make it so to because of inequality and the huge difference in capability.

          I can't parse that. Did you leave out a word? And what is your point?

          • by aliquis ( 678370 )

            So ... not always for others?

            What I mean is that the people who get a benefit may view it as ok, and maybe the majority does, but those who lose ..

            I can't parse that. Did you leave out a word? And what is your point?

            What I mean is that I guess mostly with inherited money and no redistribution of wealth people will be born into different worlds and with a huge economical advantage against someone else where you've always been able to take advantage of them, say such as house-cleaners, chefs, prostitutes, drivers, .. whatever, that situation most likely become normal for you.

            But it has obviously made you

            • by KGIII ( 973947 )

              As a trivial aside: What makes you think that people are taking advantage of people who do the jobs that you named? I have a housekeeper who works maybe 20 hours a week (sometimes a bit more) and gets paid a salary no matter how many hours she works or doesn't work. I had to force a raise on her because I realized I'd not given her one in a long time.

              As a guess (and statistically I stand a good chance of being correct), she makes more money per hour than you do with her salary alone. When you add the benefi

        • It is the natural cyclical state of man to create, consolidate, and decimate resources. Lather, rinse, repeat.

        • Socialism is always a dictatorship - for some.

          Democracy is often a dictatorship - for the 50% - 1 who constitute a minority.

      • It is a dictatorship. Of course it is closed.

        Not all dictatorships are closed. Pinochet may have tortured, imprisoned, or shot all his opponents, but he also opened Chile's economy, championed free trade, and created broad prosperity.

    • Agreed. And on the capitalist front, making the software illegal for them is a bad move. If I were at the helm of a software company, I'd figure out a mechanism for making my software legitimately and legally available to third-world markets who really can't afford to pay first-world prices for their software. It's a long term strategy for getting them used to a) using your software in particular, and b) using legitimate software instead of pirated software. It may seem like a simple semantic difference

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        I've pondered a part of that problem in the past. How about an agreement, it needn't even be formal at first, that they can use your software free of charge and then, should they use it and make a profit, they can/must/should pay you a percentage of that profit either in perpetuity, a single payment, at varied intervals, only when they make profits, or things of that nature.

        Something that's not quite the same as software that's free for home use only, free for scholastic use, stuff that must be paid for in

    • by Anonymous Coward

      > The reason that "Cuba has little Internet infrastructure" is because communism is a colossal economic and political failure.

      No. Seattle has terrible Internet, and I still have dial-up at home since Comcast doesn't offer service to my block and the phone wiring is too old for CenturyLink to support DSL, so that proves it isn't always communism that is the problem.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 07, 2016 @08:16PM (#51259229)

      Tell us how Jamaica, their capitalist neighbour, is faring any better.

      • by jblues ( 1703158 ) on Thursday January 07, 2016 @10:10PM (#51259687)
        According to the Human Development Index [wikipedia.org], Cuba, at 67th place is somewhat ahead of Jamaica, at 99th. Both places are ahead of where I live, though I think we're vastly ahead on the internet development index.
        • by KGIII ( 973947 )

          What an odd list. Singapore is quite high and Iceland and Canada are below the US. I didn't look at the order of all of them but those jumped off the page at me. I've been to Iceland twice and am a dual-citizen so I go to Canada frequently. I've never been to Singapore but I understand they do stuff like cane people and have some rather insane drug laws. I'm not really sure what to make of it...

          The only conclusion I did come to is that, by whatever metrics they use, you almost certainly live in a hellhole.

          • by jblues ( 1703158 )

            Yes, it is an odd list. I'm not sure how Saudi Arabia does so well. Red flags for me are: Public beheadings, ultra conservative government, no separation of church (or mosque) and state. And it is a 3rd world, albeit, wealthy country by the traditional definition. That is, 1st world: western democracy, 2nd world, eastern socialism, 3rd world: Feudalism/other

            My take on Singapore. A pleasant place to visit. I wouldn't personally want to live there. The first things that you'd perhaps notice are: The tropical

            • by KGIII ( 973947 )

              Ah thanks for sharing. I've been to a half-dozen or so of the islands there. Every one of my trips (three total) was for pleasure - seeking out historical places and enjoying the area. I have no idea how they're that low on the list. Well, no. I guess I can probably guess it. There were some violent areas, as I recall. I also recall hearing that there were some islands with a whole lot of firearms? As in, pretty much any firearm type you can imagine is available but, oddly, a whole bunch of them are made in

              • by jblues ( 1703158 )

                You sound like a Californian with those preferences :) Are you? I don't think many people complain about having to visit Califronia. I always enjoy it when I get the chance.

                At first the heat and humidity were a welcome novelty for me. But we eventually decided to move up into the cordilleras where the temperatures are year-round within 50-80 degrees. There's a month or two where it gets down towards 50 on some days and a month or two where it gets up towards 80. There's a kind of pine tree native to the ar

                • by KGIII ( 973947 )

                  I'm about as far away from California as possible. Well, not at the moment, at the moment I'm in Florida. However, my home is way up in NW Maine. I'm up above the 45th lat. and close to Canada. I prefer a very, very rural life. I then visit the areas where the people are - and then leave after I've had enough of them. So, I travel a lot, I used to travel for work and, I guess, I've really been traveling my whole life. I grew up in the military, was in the military, and then went through college. I then trav

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What particular freedoms would capitalism bring to Cuba? The freedom for Cubans to starve to death? The freedom to be exploited by an extra-national entity (or entities) rather than one of their own? Capitalism can only succeed for everyone when it is in chains, i.e. actively restrained from achieving its worst excesses, whereby it becomes a ravening monster that eats or destroys all in its path. Rich laissez-faire capitalists are slavemasters and poor laissez-faire capitalists are suffering from Stockh

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        The freedom of choice. That choice might only be the freedom to decide who does the screwing but at least there's a chance and at least there's a choice.

        All-in-all, I'd say that's a pretty big advantage. You, on the other hand, might have different values but I'm not terribly scared to make choices and accept responsibility for those choices where and when I can. It may sound strange to you but I'm old and have probably at least thought out the same thoughts you're thinking right now. I value the chance to

    • Communism didn't make Cuba an island. The lack of Internet infrastructure is mainly because it's an island which has been under strict embargo by its only nearby mainland neighbor for half a century. Remove the embargo and they'd happily put in a cable to Florida and solve the problems.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 07, 2016 @07:19PM (#51258961)

            Why on earth would anyone think this is illegal? There are a lot of things that are wacky wrong in Cuba, but copying 1s and 0s without fear of some artificial scarcity punishment is not one of them.

    • Well, if you get arrested and imprisoned for copying 1s and 0s and you argue that it is illegal and they laugh, what then? Do you tweet that it is an injustice?
  • North Korea uses exactly the same system for exchanging news: http://techli.com/2012/05/nort... [techli.com].

  • In the Philippines during the 80s, they used to do the same thing for TV. I lived in one of the 7106 islands and our TV is late for 1 week, since after each day, all the recording from Manila (the capital) are shipped and it arrives on or before 7 days. So we would offset 7 days when there are airing schedules of movies / shows.
  • Use big drones to distribute solar powered WiFi mesh network nodes, that act as caching proxies, across rooftops and then have smaller drones deliver caches of data on a regular basis. The small drones can even recharge at each node before moving on to the next one to update it's cache. Optimise the routes and node positions and you have the best of both options with the fastest possible cache update times. You do not even need to update the entire cache, just add new content and have the node's storage muc
    • Right, all you need to do is buy automated drones which can recharge themselves automatically, and carry a payload. And others that can distribute solar powered WiFi nodes. I could do it for about $20 million. Or I could hire a guy with sneakers and a pickup truck.
  • This seems fine on a tiny island like Cuba, but good luck making this work for developing countries over wider geographical areas.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by shapano ( 23106 )

      Cuba is not a tiny island. It's about half the size of Great Britain and is the 17th largest island in the world.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Geography is not an issue. Any nation can rollout optical links, add in cell towers, wireless towers for more remote locations, get optical down to many areas given a generation of telco workers, site access and now very cheap local manufacturing.
      The problem is who to buy and fully import needed equipment from. Once a Cuban telco contract is final the US gov starts looking at any bank, brand and its links in or to the USA.
      So any advanced EU, Asian, South American, African based exporter with the abili
  • Seems like they are distributing media content only since Cubans already have some access to "normal" internet through open wifi hotspots in the plazas (spotty and scheduled, but they seem to be able to do video calls with family in Miami so it must be decent enough), Cuba's internet comes through Venezuela BTW.

    I fail to see how is this any different from a guy selling pirated movies in SD card, it's free and centrally organized, thats what people do usually against controlling overlords. Wonder how they
  • by Dr. Spork ( 142693 ) on Friday January 08, 2016 @12:51AM (#51260173)
    This whole operation is based on meeting people face to face and trusting them to be generous. That's the kind of trust-thy-neighbor attitude which is largely dying out in richer countries. We've become so rich that we don't need to cultivate neighborly kindness. When we want something, we just get it ourselves, whether it's through wires, Amazon or an SUV trip to the store. I wouldn't want these opportunities to go away, but at the same time, I sometimes think that our wealth has brought us too much self-reliance. We've forgotten what it's like to actually rely on the kindness of strangers, and I we hardly many opportunities to show strangers our kindness.
    • by whh3 ( 450031 )

      I wish that I had moderator points to mod this up. Thank you for this post. I largely agree with you. Like you said, there is a tradeoff, but I'd like to see us to swing back in the other direction (at least a little).

      The one benefit of less self-reliance is what we would realize there is really no such thing as self-reliance. We are all helped/hurt by the people around us all the time and in myriad ways. I believe that people who believe they are entirely self-reliant lack the empathy needed to realize tha

  • This is not so different from the Warez CDs that were available in pre-Internet ages (those were actual pressed CDs). People used to pass them around so you could copy off them what you liked, then pass them on/give them back, etc. Later on you saw them on burned CDRs as well, but with the rollout of broadband Internet these disappeared/became obsolete.

    But even though it's in Cuba, Clinton (the male, not the female) somehow managed to come up with an exception to the blanket embargo.... for copyright purpo

    • by lpress ( 707742 )
      The difference is not in the content, but the organization -- these guys reliably deliver a terabyte of new material once a week -- never miss an episode of your favoiite TV shows or a newly released movie.

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