Conflicts & War

Cubans use VPNs, tech tricks to get around internet shutdown

Havana, Jul 14 (EFE).- Though state-owned Etecsa’s mobile internet remained offline Wednesday three days after it was interrupted amid nationwide anti-government protests, some Cubans were managing to access the web on Wednesday using VPN services and their own technical ingenuity.

Only a handful of Cuban homes have an internet connection, so the shutdown of the mobile net left the vast majority of people on the Communist-ruled island cut off from the web.

Some users turned to VPN (virtual private network) services such as Psiphon or Thunder, while others devised hacks that enable to them to tap into Etecsa’s 3G and 4G mobile data networks.

“You have to active the data and then the VPN and put it in region of the US. Then you put the phone in airplane mode for five seconds and on quitting (airplane mode) it connects,” a 26-year-old Havana woman told Efe Wednesday.

A small number of people have reported that they recovered an intermittent connection without resort to VPN or tricks.

The public Wi-Fi networks established by Etecsa have continued to function throughout the outage, albeit with only sporadic access to WhatsApp.

Etecsa’s mobile internet went down last Sunday after the dissemination of a video showing residents of San Antonio de los Baños, a town 30 km (19 mi) east of Havana, protesting against shortages of food and medicine and frequent power blackouts appeared to spur similar demonstrations in other areas.

While it is widely thought that the government ordered the service turned off to avert additional protests, some suggest the move could backfire by making Cubans even more angry toward the government.

Indeed, the lack of mobile internet has disrupted the government’s own pandemic measures, including distance learning and remote work, and the absence of connection to the web has left many Cubans with no means of communicating with loved ones abroad.

Etecsa has offered no explanation of the shutdown and it was not until Tuesday that the government, in the person of Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, likened the problem with the internet to power outages and the other shortages plaguing Cuba.

“It is true that there is lack of data, but there is also a lack of medication,” he said, without explicitly acknowledging that the shutdown of mobile internet was the result of a decision by the government.

Last Sunday’s anti-government protests were the largest seen in Cuba in six decades. EFE aaf/dr

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