While we still don’t have official online content distribution services like Netflix, Hulu and Spotify, things are getting better all the time. Internet connections are getting faster and cheaper, we have several VOD services and our digital media is mostly free and uncensored.
Spare a thought for our friends in Cuba, though. While they may have the best cigars, the only source of media allowed in the country is provided by the state, and is extremely censored. According to Freedom House: “Cuba has the most restrictive laws on free speech and press freedom in the Americas.” To add insult to injury, only around 5% of the country has access to the internet, and what is available is painfully slow. South Africa with 20% penetration looks like a paradise in comparison.
So how does the average Cuban get around the digital blockade? The answer is “El Paquete Semanal”, Spanish for “The Weekly Packet”. Every week contacts across the Americas gather the newest movies, TV shows, music, online articles and mobile apps until it fills a 1 terabyte (TB) hard drive. The content of this hard drive forms the packet. The packet then follows a distribution line that follows very closely to drug distribution, with “data runners” carrying physical media around to be passed on in the chain. From the source, it is passed around until it reaches certain stores (usually mobile repair and DVD rental shops) where customers can come in and buy either parts of the packet, or the whole thing.
While this video is only seven minutes long, it manages to be a very comprehensive documentary and even includes an interview with one of the “big bosses” of the process. It’s an absolutely fascinating look into the age old adage of “where there’s a will, there’s a way”, and it sometimes sounds like you’re listening to a subplot of Bladerunner.
The takeaway quote comes from one of the early interviews with a data runner: “It’s our own home-made internet.”[Source – Youtube/Vox]