Lines of investigation
In response to Cuba’s limited Internet access, technology enthusiasts across the country have been building their community computer networks for years. These networks allow users to play multiplayer video games, chat, send messages, discuss in forums, share files, or host websites. The largest of these, SNET (Street Network, in Spanish Red de la Calle or Red Callejera), in Havana, evolved organically from hundreds of neighborhood LANs connecting.
It is believed to be the largest community network in the world isolated from the Internet as it connects tens of thousands of users. Its physical base consists of miles of ethernet cables running across streets and/or balconies, wifi antennas mounted on poles on rooftops and rooftops, and servers and network switches operated by volunteer node administrators. Its thousands of participants collaboratively create, operate, and maintain their hardware and software infrastructure.
In its early days, several names were used to refer to this network. SNET, which was the name of the regional pillar of the Playa municipality, west of Havana, one of the most important nodal points within the network’s architecture, finally gained acceptance.
Around 2009 almost every municipality in Havana had its gaming network and soon the idea of connecting these individual nodes to form a much larger network took shape. In 2011, groups of nodes began meeting regularly to explore how the growing network could be sustained cooperatively. In a tightly controlled society based on centralized economic planning, they established new forms of community organization and decision-making. A pyramidal structure was created in which smaller local area networks (connected by ethernet cables and network switches) – the so-called sub-nodes – became connected to larger nodes via wireless bridges (or access points).
This social structure is crucial to the evolution and persistence of the network: its members collectively provide the funding for its technological base, while connections between individual nodes are mediated by personal relationships, so administrators and users must work together to ensure its survival in a socially and politically complex context. In Cuba, as in many other places in the world, vernacular organizations that rely on relationships between people often compensate for the limitations of state projects in the provision of infrastructure by expanding, bypassing, or replacing them.