LA GUAIRA, Venezuela – A specialized ship began laying an undersea fiber-optic cable Saturday between Venezuela and Cuba, a connection that will dramatically improve Cuba’s telephone and Internet services.
Officials of the two countries launched the project in a ceremony at Venezuela’s Camuri Beach near the port of La Guaira, where the cable was suspended from buoys behind the French-flagged ship that will run the cable along the sea floor to Cuba.
Alcatel-Lucent SA of Paris is carrying out the project for the two countries’ state telecommunications companies. Cuban officials have said it is expected to cost about $70 million.
The cable will span about 1,000 miles across the Caribbean Sea to Siboney in eastern Cuba. A second segment of about 150 miles will extend from Cuba to nearby Jamaica.
Cuba is the only nation in the Western Hemisphere that is not linked to the outside world by optical fiber. Instead, it relies on slow, expensive satellite links.
The cable is one of many joint projects promoted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a close ally of Cuba’s communist government. It is dubbed “ALBA-1,” after the Bolivarian Alternative bloc that includes Venezuela, Cuba and other left-leaning allies.