WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and private sector sources are criticizing a proposal by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) to fly balloons over Cuba that provide internet access to protesters.
“I’m all for creating Internet access in Cuba in a way that will work, that the regime will have the hardest time jamming. If you have balloons, it has an omnidirectional signal. I know the balloon is there. I know the signal comes down. I block it,” said Menendez, who like Rubio, is of Cuban descent.
Rubio has continued to promote his idea last week of providing Internet access to Cuba through Project Loon, an experiment by Alphabet, Inc., Google’s parent company, that uses a fleet of balloons to create internet access to remote parts of the world. Project Loon was discontinued in January.
Days after a series of anti-government protests occurred in Cuba on July 11, Rubio wrote a letter to President Biden on July 14 and issued video statements in English and Spanish about getting internet access to Cubans, after reports that the Cuban government was blocking it.
“During the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the island of Puerto Rico received emergency connectivity through balloon-supplied internet[…] Today, U.S. companies stand ready and willing to support this effort with the support of the federal government,” part of Rubio’s letter read.
A spokesperson for Alphabet was quick to remind Latino Rebels over the weekend that Project Loon had permission to fly their internet balloons over Puerto Rican air space in 2017. No such permission currently exists with the Cuban government.
“My goal is to make sure the Cuban people have Internet access,” Menendez told Latino Rebels on Thursday afternoon. “That might be through satellite. It might be another way. I’m not a technologist. We’re working on it.”
Pablo Manríquez is Latino Rebels’ Washington correspondent. He is an immigrant from Santiago de Chile with a political science degree from the University of Notre Dame. The Washington Post calls him “an Internet folk hero.” Twitter: @PabloReports.