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VPN for Cuba

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I. Introduction

Cuba has a unique internet landscape compared to much of the world. Service is government-controlled, expensive, slow, and highly censored. The internet didn’t become available for public purchase in Cuba until 2018. Before then, access was limited to select educational and governmental institutions.

Even today, only 30% of Cubans can access the internet. Connections are slow with typical speeds under 10 Mbps. The deficient infrastructure also suffers frequent outages during storms and other issues. These challenges are compounded by heavy-handed censorship and restrictions on access to information.

Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is extremely useful given this backdrop. VPN encryption provides enhanced privacy and security while accessing the internet in Cuba. More importantly, bypassing geo-restrictions via VPN servers gives Cubans improved access to independent news sources and communication platforms.

II. Why Use a VPN in Cuba

There are a few compelling reasons for using a VPN connection in Cuba:

Government-Controlled Infrastructure

Internet infrastructure in Cuba is owned and regulated by the state-run telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. This gives the authoritarian government full visibility and control over Cuban internet activity. By routing connections via an encrypted VPN tunnel instead, Cubans can bypass surveillance measures.

Internet Censorship

VPNs help circumvent the far-reaching internet censorship enforced by the Cuban government. All traffic passes through a single gateway controlled by the state censorship apparatus. VPN encryption hides content making monitoring and blocking more difficult.

Public Wi-Fi Security

Public Wi-Fi hotspots have proliferated after internet access was legalized in 2018. However, using open connections without encryption poses huge security and privacy risks for users. VPNs thoroughly secure communications over such public networks.

III. Key Features of a Cuba VPN

Selecting a suitable VPN service for Cuba involves evaluating certain key parameters:

Privacy & Security Protocols

Stringent privacy protection like AES-256 bit encryption along with secure protocols like OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec are vital for hiding internet activity from state agencies. Features like DNS/IPv6/WebRTC leak protection, VPN over TCP/UDP, kill switch add additional layers of privacy.

Fast Server Network

Slow connection speeds are a major drag on internet access in Cuba. Choosing VPN servers with good latency and bandwidth can help offset this handicap. Servers in nearby locations like Central America could offer better speeds owing to proximity.

Multiple Global Locations

The best Cuba VPN services have robust global infrastructure spanning hundreds of servers worldwide across continents. This provides Cubans numerous options to choose virtual locations for bypassing geo-blocks on news, social media as well as streaming platforms like Netflix, YouTube and beyond.

Stream & Communicate Freely

Unlocking streaming entertainment services not available in Cuba is a great benefit of using VPNs. Communication apps like Skype, WhatsApp and Messenger restricted by the regime can also be freely used via VPN encryption. This opens access to information plus easier contact with Cuban diaspora overseas.

Secure Data/Transactions

VPNs thoroughly secure personal communication, financial transactions as well as storage and transfer of sensitive data while preventing snooping by state-owned ISPs. This is invaluable given limited avenues for data protection against governmental overreach.

IV. Best VPNs for Cuba

We discuss the top 2 VPN services most suitable for bypassing internet restrictions in Cuba below:

ExpressVPN

Recognized as among the fastest and most secure VPN services globally, ExpressVPN offers top-tier functionality for Cuban users (expressvpn.com):

Superior Network of Servers

With 3000+ ultra fast VPN servers spanning 94 countries, ExpressVPN is hard to match. Multiple locational choices facilitate access to geo-blocked platforms. Nearby servers boost speeds.

Strong Encryption & Protocols

Military-grade AES-256 encryption coupled with support for a variety of protocols like OpenVPN UDP/TCP, IKEv2 and Lightway provide ironclad security. Features like split-tunnelling, kill switch and private DNS add further protection.

NordVPN

NordVPN has the largest VPN server network globally along with industry-leading security provisions tailor-made for the Cuban context (nordvpn.com):

Cutting-edge Security

The latest encryption plus protocols like NordLynx, Double VPN and Obfuscated Servers make government decryption virtually impossible. CyberSec blocks ads and malware.

User-Friendly Apps

Despite extensive under-the-hood security protections, NordVPN apps remain intuitive to operate. Additional settings can also be tweaked by advanced users as needed to enhance privacy or circumvention.

V. Using a VPN in Cuba

We outline the key steps involved in setting up and using a VPN connection in Cuba:

Downloading VPN Apps

Compatible apps for desired VPN services like ExpressVPN and NordVPN should be installed on devices like phones, laptops and tablets from official app/play stores or respective websites (where app stores are unavailable).

Account Creation

Proceed to create accounts on the installed VPN apps. Many provide free trial periods for initial usage. Long term discounted subscriptions can be purchased using international payment methods.

Connection & Usage

Launch the VPN app to connect to a suitable server. Try out different locations for optimal speeds or access to geo-blocked platforms as needed. Leave the VPN running persistently in the background for constant protection including on public Wi-Fi.

For enhanced privacy, usage of open-source VPN solutions like ProtonVPN or RiseupVPN available on mobile/desktop platforms is encouraged. Their community driven development provides further usage assurance against infiltration by state-owned ISPs.

VI. Accessing a Cuban IP from Anywhere

Enabling a Cuban-based digital identity using VPN IP masking provides certain advantages:

Masking True Location

By assigning a Cuban-allocated IP address, the virtual location shifts to Cuba regardless of true geographical position. This adds an extra layer of anonymity useful for accessing news media or other local sites while overseas.

Secure Data Usage

Accessing data repositories while masked via a Cuban IP ensures encryption provides comprehensive protection until the last mile stretch controlled by Cuban ISPs. This reduces chances of external infiltration elsewhere along the route.

However, assigning a Cuba-based IP using VPNs may not fully bypass restrictions enforced by the state’s centralized internet chokepoints. Additional circumvention technologies like Tor over VPN may sometimes prove more effective.

VII. Personal VPN Server in Cuba

One effective method to gain improved control over internet access in Cuba involves deploying a private VPN server on rented cloud infrastructure using solutions like Outline.

Created by Jigsaw, Outline allows anyone to set up feature-rich VPN servers on DigitalOcean, AWS and other platforms with just a few clicks using preconfigured images.

Outline VPN on Ubuntu 20.04

Here is a quick guide to deploy Outline on an Ubuntu 20.04 VPS instance on DigitalOcean for under $10/month:

  1. Create new Ubuntu 20.04 “Droplet” on DigitalOcean
  2. Choose server location preferably outside Cuba to avoid state-owned datacenters
  3. Launch server instance after setup
  4. Install Outline Manager from official outlets
  5. Use Outline Manager to deploy Outline server on new instance
  6. Connect devices manually to new personal VPN IP
  7. Route device traffic through private Outline server for secure access

Why Personal VPN Helps

Hosting a private VPN server grants full authority over security and protocols tailored to personal needs. Being self-managed, it eliminates reliance on external VPN providers. This hands control back to Cuban users while improving performance.

VIII. User Experiences

Informal user testimonials provide additional insight into effectiveness of various VPN services and connection options in Cuba based on individual requirements across security, streaming, speeds and more:

NordVPN consistently unblocks content across streaming platforms like Netflix besides providing bulletproof security for my communication. However, Windscribe’s free monthly data has proven more useful for basic web access given their server locations see less congestion. I use both depending on the need.

While commercial VPNs make an effort to evade blocks, I’ve had better luck accessing independent news sources using community-run VPNs like Riseup which seem more motivated to continuously innovate specifically for preserving access in restrictive regimes. Their voluntarily operated nature adds to trust.

None of the app-based VPNs fully solved constant speed issues I faced even after troubleshooting for months. Finally I set up my own Outline server on DigitalOcean’s Mexico region. Though initially complex to configure, the self-hosted server gives me better, consistent speeds as it stays under my control.

I prefer using the Psiphon VPN app as unlike typical VPNs it specifically focuses on bypassing censorship. This proves more reliable for access to pro-democracy sites and publications banned by our government compared to mainstream VPNs designed largely for privacy and streaming.

The typical use case will determine the ideal VPN solution for a specific user in Cuba – whether optimizing speeds to offset connection lags using nearby servers or defeating increasingly sophisticated blocking mechanisms employed for political censorship. The personal contours define the tools most fit for purpose.

Yet there is clear indication Cuban internet users increasingly move to VPN usage not just to access entertainment but more critically, enjoy unfiltered access to information that authoritarian policies seek to deny from a restless young population eager for greater freedoms.

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