This is Cuba’s Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify – all without the internet

This is Cuba’s Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify – all without the internet


When you want to watch a movie or a TV show,
you know what to do. You tap your fingers and within a few seconds
you are watching whatever you want. It’s frictionless. It’s easy. But in some places, it’s not so easy. “There’s no other way we don’t have foreign
TV, it’s national TV.” Officially, there is one source of permitted media in
Cuba. And it’s the state. “It’s because I don’t know what to tell you
tell you brother. I just know that’s the way it is.” But Cubans found a way to work around this media blockade to distribute the latest in global entertainment to the entire country, coordinated entirely by an informal market of underground data traffickers, based both in Havana and in the United States. It’s the fruits of the internet, without any
of the guts. “One guy will gather TV shows. The other Movies.
Music etc. and that’s how they go about collecting media until they have 1 terabyte.” Once all the latest media from around the
world is gathered onto one hard drive, the top dealers in Havana will prepare it for distribution. This extensive collection of digital media is affectionately called ‘El Paquete Semanal’ — The Weekly Package. “Someone brings it to me. It’s from someone
who gets it from someone else who gets it from someone else. In the end it’s a chain. It costs about $2
and what most people do is fill their flashdrive with the content they want.” A quick look into the Paquete, and you realize
just how massive the system must be to gather so much content in such a short of time especially in a country that has 5% internet
penetration and agonizingly slow connection speeds. Who’s behind all this? I found a couple of 20 year olds who make
their living hustling Havana’s streets, participating in the thriving industry of shadowy odd jobs
. Between driving taxi bikes without a license
and giving unofficial city tours to European tourists, these guys move The Paqeute between
distributors from time to time. They led me behind the scenes in Havana where
I saw how the Paquete makes its rounds every week. The distribution centers are usually in the
back of a cell phone repair shop or a DVD store. Hardware flowing in and out of these places
doesn’t attract unwanted attention. Distributors were not keen on appearing on
camera, but they showed me their operation and explained how clients come to their shop
with a weekly order of content. American TV shows are some of the most demanded
content, but some people show up with an empty drive every week to transfer the whole thing everything from the iPhone app updates to
the indie film section. After poking around, I finally worked my way
up the chain to discover who is coordinating this massive enterprise. They call him Dany Paquete, and he agreed
to meet with me. Dany was with a client so I waited for an
hour in his impromptu lobby. I didn’t know what to expect Dany Paquete
to be like. But i definitely did not expect this. He’s a 26 year old who was wearing board shorts
and not shirt when I arrived. He looked a lot more like an lazy college
sophomore than the king pin of a national black market of pirated media. But after five minutes sitting in his office
with a client in the room, I quickly gained a respect for Dany and the media machine he
is running. As Dany’s 40 year old assistant helped load
the hard drive of a local distributor, I watched a live feed of Telemundo digitizing on the
screen. Dany must have an illegal satellite hidden
in a fake water tower on his roof, a fairly common Cuban practice. Dany’s girl friend wandered in and began watching
a discovery channel documentary about a farmer who almost died in a tractor accident in Iowa.

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