The Digital Divide
of invited trading partners that have expressed interest in stronger IP enforcement tactics. Despite persistent calls from civil society groups, academics and
firms in sectors that would be affected by the treaty to make working drafts available for more public
review, the negotiating parties have insisted on near-total secrecy.
Prelude to an Unlikely Convergence?
While conflicts around IP, net work access
and innovation in the U. S. remain largely unresolved, in Brazil, the approach
to these debates has shifted somewhat.
The second Lula administration has
proven less forceful in its knowledge-based development agenda, turning away from the more strident
rhetoric employed by Amadeu and others. Nevertheless, the Lula government has persisted in its internal
efforts to cultivate a domestic market for open access
goods as well as for free and open source software.
As Lula enters the home stretch of his second
term in office, Brazil’s efforts to use state funding
and authority to promote access to informational resources should focus more on cultivating the
domestic knowledge-based industry. In this regard,
Brazilian innovators and regulators would do well to
deepen the connections with high-technology sectors in North America and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the United States must confront the
fact that its existing IP laws are hampering the emergence of new business models and technologies. During the U.S. presidential campaign and transition,
President Barack Obama and his staff signaled that
they intend to pursue a more innovation-oriented
policy framework in knowledge-based industries by
reforming IP regulations and promoting access to
informational resources. 3 That said, the new administration must balance these aspirations with the powerful political forces in favor of strict IP enforcement.
This includes the recording, film and pharmaceutical
WHERE SPEED DOESN’T MATTER
Venezuela, which has been keeping the Castro brothers’ Cuba afloat
for several years, is now about to
extend the island nation a digital lifeline as well. In a joint venture between Telecom Venezuela
and Cuban Telecommunication
Signals Transport Company, the
state-owned telecoms plan to lay a
963-mile underwater fiber optics
cable from Cuba to Venezuela.
But whether that will bring Cuba
any further into the digital age is an
open question. Cuba’s digital prospects are burdened as much by the
weight of its restrictive communications policies as by its lack of access
to high-speed Internet.
According to Carlos Orfila, the
Venezuelan engineer in charge
of the project, the new cable will
enable Cuba to circumvent the telecommunications restrictions placed
on the island by the U.S. embargo,
which has forced the island to rely
on satellites to connect to the Web.
Current Internet download speeds
are 120 megabytes per second,
but with the new connection Orfila
claims that Cuban users will have
access to a blistering 60 gigabytes
per second. No one has provided an
official cost estimate, but Venezuela Telecom claims the cable will be
completed by 2010.
Unfortunately, for most Cubans
speed doesn’t matter. According to
a 2006 report by the United Nations
Conference on Trade and Development, Cuba has the lowest level of
Internet access in Latin America.
The International Telecommunications Union estimates that out of
10. 5 million Cubans, only 95,000
are regular Internet users, or
roughly nine-tenths of one per cent.
Yoani Sánchez, a prominent
Cuban blogger, doubts the underwater cable will trigger any sort
of telecommunications glasnost
in her country. “It’s not a question
of [technological] capacity, but of
distribution, “ she says. “And our
distribution is non-egalitarian…In
Cuba we have six airports, but that
doesn’t mean Cubans can travel
She offers her own online career
as a demonstration of this point: she
has not been able to see or access