The strangest bit of news this week comes bubbling up from the submarine cable sector, where people are wondering just whatever happened to that new ALBA-1 submarine cable system between Venezuela and Cuba. Alcatel-Lucent finished it more than a year ago, after which it seems to have vanished from sight.
The cable system was supposed to boost Cuba's international connectivity by a factor of 3,000, and replaced several other efforts including an effort to build a 110 mile link from Southern Florida due to political considerations. The buildout was completed by Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU, news, filings) in February of 2011, but internet connectivity (think dialup with congestion) did not improve by last summer, and now over a year later there's lots of "don't look at me" responses going around right on the subject.
Alcatel-Lucent now simply refers questions about the cable's status to the Cuban-Venezuelan joint venture Telecommunicaciones Gran Caribe, and you can feel the hot potato whiz by - they did their job and want no part of this. TGC said it needed permission from Venezuela's science and technology ministry to even talk about it. If you can't talk about the operational status of their own fiber assets, why bother to have them in the first place?
Today Venezuela's technology minister finally weighed in, saying "It's absolutely operational. It will depend on the Cuban government what it uses it for. Of course that's their sovereign matter, but we know that the undersea cable is in full operation." In other words, "It's not our fault, go ask Cuba."
Cuba is of course silent, they're rather good at that. Some blame corruption for the failure to bring the bandwidth to market. But others have said it is working fine, suggesting the government is simply restricting access to itself because it fears a 'Cuban Spring'. Nah, they wouldn't do that, would they? I'm sure soon the lack of bandwidth will be blamed on American interference or something.