Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday he wants Florida companies to provide internet connections to Cubans as the island enters its third day of protests amid widespread internet shutdowns that have disrupted the flow of information.

“What does the regime do when you start seeing these images?” They shut down the internet. “They do not want the truth to come out, they do not want people to be able to communicate,” DeSantis said during a roundtable discussion with Republican lawmakers and members of the Cuban expat community in Miami.

“And so one of the things that I think we need to be able to do with our private companies or with the United States is provide a piece of that internet via satellite. We have companies on the Spatial Coast that start these things,” he added.

Without giving details on how to activate remote hotspots to give Cubans WiFi connection, DeSantis added that he would make some calls to “see what the options are” to make it happen.

Congresswoman Maria Elvira Salazar addresses the media during a roundtable discussion coordinated by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis with South Florida officials and Cuban representatives at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora in Miami, Florida on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. Daniel A. Varela

During the roundtable at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora, DeSantis joined Lt. Col. Jeannette Nuñez and Republican Republicans Maria Elvira Salazar and Carlos Gimenez. Other Republican lawmakers and senators were also present.

“Everyone here agrees on all of these basic truths, and one of those truths is that people who are on the road in revolt are not complaining about the lack of vaccines or any tangential issues,” DeSantis said. “They are revolting against a corrupt, communist dictatorship that has ruled that island with an iron fist for more than 60 years.”

Rosa Maria Payá, a Cuban activist and executive director of the Pan American Democracy Foundation, said that in addition to the US providing Internet service in Cuba, she would like the Biden administration to say it will not negotiate with the Cuban government during a transition from communism.

What the Cubans need is “freedom from dictatorship,” not negotiations, Paya said, adding that giving people on the island a way to communicate with the outside world is vital. “The United States has the capacity to provide Internet access to Cuban people. Internet access can now save lives in the midst of repression.”

Salazar agreed with DeSantis and others who attended the roundtable on the plan to provide internet service in Cuba as a way to keep up the momentum and show the world how the protests are going.

“If the world does not know what is happening to those Cubans on the streets, then who will help?” said Salazar, adding that she believed US military intervention on the island “is not what we need to do now.

“I assure you that this will not be necessary because the Cubans will take care of it,” she added.

MIAMI Protesters Block PALMETTO

As DeSantis set the table in front of a black background saying “SOS CUBA”, hundreds of protesters in Miami who took to the streets in solidarity with Cubans on the island blocked part of the Palmetto Highway for more than an hour.

The protests in Miami mark just over three months since DeSantis signed the so-called “anti-mob” legislation into law in response to the 2020 summer demonstrations against racism and police reform, fueled by the assassination of George Floyd in Minneapolis. New Florida law makes blocking a highway a criminal offense, among other things.

When asked about the protests in Miami, DeSantis spoke about the protests in Cuba and how they are “fundamentally different” from last year’s protests.

Governor Ron DeSantis addresses the media during a roundtable discussion at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora in Miami on Tuesday, July 13, 2021. Daniel A. Varela

“I think people understand the difference between going out and peaceful assembly, which is definitely the constitutional right of people, and attacking other people or burning buildings or pulling people out of a car and doing that,” DeSantis said. “What I think was happening in Cuba is that these are people who are rebelling against a communist dictatorship. They are not necessarily … created to be peaceful. They are trying to end the regime. “


Dr Alex Crowther, a professor at the International University of Florida, said there are two possible ways that internet access can be provided on the island. But both have big catches.

“One is the use of balloons, as they did when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and Peru was hit by the earthquake,” he said. “A company called Loon, which was owned by Alphabet [the conglomerate that owns Google] used to make them. But the company just closed earlier this year. “

Crowther said the balloons could still be used as transmitters to connect Cubans online, but that would require their flight over Cuban airspace, where they could crash. If the balloons were to be held 12 miles at sea, outside Cuban airspace, the signal would only reach coastal areas, and you would still need to have someone on land to receive and retransmit the signal.

The other method would be to use an integrated transmitter and receiver (TRIA) that processes signals from and to a ground-based unit and an orbital satellite. This is the system that Elon Musk Starlink’s company uses to provide Internet access in remote rural areas around the US

But the problem with those dishes is a practical problem: How to bring them to the Cuban people in one piece. Installation is no different than installing a satellite TV dish, and Crowther said instructions can be transmitted via radio waves.

“But unlike food and rescue supplies, you can’t just throw them off a plane,” Crowther said. “Those points would fall sharply. You will need to be able to give to people. “

And even in the unlikely scenario that someone in Cuba could link their satellite connection, they would risk disclosure by authorities if they tried to turn their connection into a hot public spot.

“The Russians and their partners are good at electronic warfare,” Crowther said. “So once you start broadcasting in Cuba, they would be over you.”

Bianca Padró Ocasio's profile

Bianca Padró Ocasio is a general affairs reporter for the Miami Herald. She has been a journalist in Florida for several years, covering everything from crime and the courts to hurricanes and politics. Her bilingual work telling the stories of the Puerto Rican community in Central Florida has previously been recognized by the Florida News Editors Association and the Florida State Sunshine Awards.