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US ponders fibre link to Guantanamo

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The US is pricing up a $40m fibre-optic cable connecting Guantanamo Bay to the US mainland, providing broadband connectivity to the place where 169 inmates still languish.

To be fair to the US Navy, the connectivity isn't just for the prisoners, it will also connect up the military personnel and contractors on the base. The base can hit residency numbers approaching 10,000, and it will continue to exist even if America does ever get round to closing down the prison as Obama promised.

To the rest of the world, Guantanamo Bay is just that prison, but it's also a strategic military base with its own school and (heavily subsidised) KFC and Taco Bell. The base itself dates back to 1903 and isn't going to disappear anytime soon, so despite what's being reported, the decision to consider spending $40m on cabling up the 45-square-mile (116.54km2) site does not prove the prison will be there forever.

When it comes to supplies, the naval base is treated like a ship. The base is located on land which the US leases from Cuba, but the Cuban government disputes the legality of that lease and (since the 1960s) even the most basic supplies have to come in by ship or air. Water is desalinated using electricity generated locally from shipped-in diesel, though there are some wind turbines – and in March this year the base switched on its 300kW solar plant to reduce consumption.

Other energy-reducing initiatives have included putting patrols on bicycles (instead of air-conditioned MPVs) and sending residents pretend electricity bills showing how much their tumble drying is costing the US taxpayer – to guilt them into cutting consumption.

The 500-mile fibre optic cable would cost something in the region of $40m, and is only a feasibility study at the moment, but is being proposed as part of the 2013 budget to improve communications with an active US Naval base, and we can't help wondering if this would be a story at all if it weren't for those 169 reluctant residents. ®

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