Imitation can be a form of flattery, but in the case of the Miami-based Foundation For Human Rights in Cuba, it’s not quite sure what to make of ETECSA, Cuba’s state telecommunications company, using the Wi-Fi logo it registered for its Connect Cuba campaign.
In some of ETECSA’s recent infographics to publicize its own effort to expand Internet access in Cuba, it uses a stylized Wi-Fi symbol that incorporates the colors of the Cuban flag. FHRC said it is the very same logo it created in 2013 and trademarked on May 20, 2014, to use in its Connect Cuba (Conecta Cuba) campaign.
The goal of the FHRC campaign is to “empower Cuban civil society with open, uncensored access to the Internet and the ability to communicate freely with each other and the world.”
In an open letter to ETECSA, FHRC wrote: “We applaud you, especially considering that you are a state-run telecommunications monopoly, for associating our Wi-Fi logo with what you believe to be authentic ‘Internet expansion’ in Cuba. That said, you still have a long way to go.”
Cuba has one of the lowest connectivity rates in the Americas, but ETECSA is in the process of creating more public Wi-Fi hotspots — it rolled out 65 last year and plans dozens more in 2016 — and has said that it is launching a pilot project that would bring broadband Internet service, including home connections, to two Havana neighborhoods.
In the letter, FHRC faulted ETECSA for price censorship — an hour of Wi-Fi access at the hotspots costs 10 percent of the average Cuban monthly salary — and for censuring access to the Internet by blocking some websites. It also said it has heard reports of “certain bloggers being punished by the Cuban government for expressing themselves freely on the limited Internet and email services you do provide.”
The letter, which was sent Tuesday afternoon, went on to say, “ETECSA, thank you for recognizing our work to advocate for a free and open Internet in Cuba, and on behalf of our organization, welcome to the Connect Cuba campaign!”
ETECSA was quick to respond, said José Luis Martínez, director of media and public relations for the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba.
On CubaSi, an official Cuban portal registered to ETECSA, the logo on the infographic morphed, becoming an all-blue symbol for connectivity the same day the letter was sent.
The Internet also has created new possibilities for the Cuban government and Cuban exiles to engage. The evening the letter was sent, CubaSi and ETECSA took to Twitter, posting tweets that could be considered a response. “Cuba is connected by itself. The terrorists only know how to connect bomb cables,” posted CubaSi in Spanish.
A Tweet posted by @ETECSA_Cuba read, “If you want to be ripped off: Conecta Cuba.” There was a similar Tweet from Rolando Tellez Rivas, whose profile identifies him as a communications specialist for ETECSA. He also posted the infographic with the new all-blue logo on his Twitter account.
Martínez didn’t appreciate the tone of the Cuban social media engagement. The responses, he said, were “untrue, inflammatory, highly unprofessional and almost childish.”