The Cuban American Telephone & Telegraph Co. first linked the mainland U.S. (Key West) with Cuba in 1921. That first cable was extremely primitive, just two wires protected by insulation and armor. Over the next 20 years, a total of six cables were deployed to handle US-Cuba telephone traffic. The last two of which are chronicled in this film, from 1950.
The cable used in this film was comparatively state-of-the-art — it used the newly-deployed polyethylene as both insulation and waterproofing. Diplomatic relations with the U.S. decayed at the end of the 1950s, but AT&T still provided Cuba's link with the world for decades following, using not only the cables (which by the late 1980s were all damaged or severed) but also by a microwave, over-the-horizon troposcatter system located in Florida that provided not only telephone calls but also television signals.
With the growth of the information age, it was necessary to provide Cuba with more modern technologies. But the very complicated politics of the situation meant that the country gained piecemeal improvements, including satellite connections via Intersputnik, throughout the 1980s and 1990s. In 2011, the first high-speed broadband cable was installed between Cuba and Venezuela. Until then, Cuba was the last country in the Western Hemisphere without a fiber-optic link to the world.
Footage courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ