June 25, 2015

ON THE NET’S LOST ISLAND, THE INTERNET COMES ON A THUMB DRIVE: Backchannel’s Susan Crawford has a fascinating report from Cuba.

By way of an informal but extraordinarily lucrative distribution chain — one guy told me the system generates $5 million in payments a month — anyone in Cuba who can pay can watch telenovelas, first-run Hollywood movies, brand-new episodes of Game of Thrones, and even search for a romantic partner. It’s called El Packete, and it arrives weekly in the form of thumb drives loaded with enormous digital files. Those drives make their way across the island from hand to hand, by bus, and by 1957 Chevy, their contents copied and the drive handed on.

In a sense, El Packete is a very slow high-capacity Internet access connection; someone (no one knows who) loads up those drives with online glitz and gets them to Cuban shores….

 The real riddle is why this rogue system can operate under the tight governing regime. The Cuban government has to know that this underground operation impinges on its monopoly on information. The secret police calls people in all the time to find out what’s going on. But for some reason El Packete isn’t a problem, while actual Internet access is.


Read the whole thing. (How long before Hollywood starts campaigning for a crackdown on this blatant piracy?) Here’s the documentary she mentions at the end.

[youtube PlPiG-pDvGA]

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