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Venezuela, Cuba to begin laying undersea fiber optic cable in early 2011, diplomat says
[October 23, 2010]

Venezuela, Cuba to begin laying undersea fiber optic cable in early 2011, diplomat says

(Canadian Press DataFile Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) CARACAS, Venezuela _ Work to lay an undersea fiber optic cable that will dramatically improve telecommunications in Cuba should begin by February, Cuba's ambassador to Venezuela said Friday.

Ambassador Rogelio Polanco said the line should start working in mid-2011 _ about two years after initial projections.

Venezuela's government has an agreement with Paris-based Alcatel-Lucent SA to produce and install the fiber optic line, a project first announced in 2007.

Cuba is the only nation in the Western Hemisphere that is not linked to the outside world by fiber optics. Instead, it relies on slow, expensive satellite links because the U.S. government's embargo has prevented most trade between the island and the United States and has made companies in other countries shy away from doing business with Cuba.

The link would likely mean cheaper overseas phone calls and faster Internet service for Cubans, though the Cuban government imposes strict limits on access to cyberspace.

``Soon Cuba and Venezuela can count on a connection by undersea fiber optic cable that will allow the development of our communications, access to the Web ... in conditions that are more favourable for Cuba _ impeded today by the blockade,'' Polanco said at a news conference.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been a staunch supporter of Cuba, helping it survive economic difficulties.

Polanco said more than 40,000 Cubans now work in the South American country in roles ranging from doctors staffing free clinics to sports trainers. In payment, Venezuela ships badly needed oil to the island.

Cuban officials have said previously that the undersea cable project is expected to cost about $70 million.

Polanco said the cable is to be laid from the Venezuelan port of La Guaira and would reach the eastern Cuban city of Santiago.

``They are doing civil construction work at the two points where the cable is going to go, and it should then start to be laid toward the end of the month of January, early February,'' Polanco told The Associated Press. ``We think that in late June, early July it could be working.'' (c) 2010 The Canadian Press

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