Cuban Govt. Blocks Internet and Ham Radio Signals. Could It Happen Here?

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by Aden Tate

Author of Zombie Choices and The Faithful Prepper

On July 11, Cuban citizens rallied in the streets to protest food and medicine shortages and electricity outages. The demonstration was one of the biggest since the days of Castro. Cuba is going through its worst economic crisis in decades, along with a resurgence of coronavirus cases. Cuban officials blame the decades-long embargo with the United States for the collapsing economy. 

Within two days, the Cuban government began restricting internet access

The internet, basically unavailable until 2008, has only been widely available in Cuba Since July 2019, when the Cuban government began lifting restrictions on internet access. Since that time, Cuba has slowly entered the digital world, with mobile access to the internet becoming available in December 2018. 

As Cuba’s citizens protested, many of them pulled out their cellphones to post videos and images across social media platforms. The Cuban government began immediately blocking access to those platforms. This is reminiscent of Arab Spring, when the governments of Egypt, Libya, and Syria completely shut down the internet to quell the protests. Other governments in the Arab world were rumored to have arrested and even executed people for things they posted on the internet. (source)

Reports state the Cuban government partially blames the U.S. for the street protests saying it used social media tools such as Twitter to help organize.

Relatives say the government is keeping them in the dark about family members

Norges Rodríguez: Right now, there are no protests…there is a lot of repression. There are people who are missing, and their families don’t know anything about them…[source]

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) say the majority of those arrested are incommunicado, and the location of some is still unknown. [source]

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed her concerns over the alleged use of excessive force when calling for the release of those detained. “I am very concerned at the alleged use of excessive force against demonstrators in Cuba and the arrest of a large number of people, including several journalists,” Bachelet said. [source]

The internet is not the only thing down in Cuba

Due to the internet outages, likely done to block the flow of information from Cuba, some citizens have turned to what many preppers see as their fallback, ham radio. They’ve been using the 40m ham band to communicate with family members in Florida. 

Now, mysteriously, nearly all of the 40m band is jammed. 

Anecdotal reports began to flood in by Cubans stating that the Cuban government was jamming their broadcasts, and it appears that they’re right. As John Nass of Ham Radio Crash Course shows, there seems to be irrefutable proof that the Cuban government is blocking the ham radio broadcasts of its own citizens. 

Nass uses a KiwiSDR and a series of software-defined radios throughout North and South America to triangulate the jamming position within the video. As expected, it appears as if the jamming signal is originating somewhere within the region of Cuba. In his video, Nass shows the jamming signals will move to better focus on any signal coming out of Cuba.

Operation Cuba Libre

American Partisan started Operation Cuba Libre to counter “Cuban Rum Runner” (the ham radio world’s name to describe the jamming.)

N.C. Scout of AP asks all properly licensed American ham operators to get on the 40m band between 7.205 and 7.295. Scout directs operators to use AM phone mode to contact other ham radio operators within this operation. When an American operator makes contact with another within that part of the radio spectrum, operators will begin a ragchew. (Ham operator code for conversation.) In these conversations, the operators speak about current events in Cuba, where protests are happening, and other relevant Cuban news.

According to N.C. Scout, this is a legal means to bypass the FCC’s restrictions on a licensed amateur ham from generating one-way conversation, news media style broadcasts. As many Cubans now fear a government backlash, this plan seems to be a way to allow Cubans with low-tech AM receivers to tune in for updates on their current political situation. 

Could communications shutdowns like this happen in the United States?

Of course, you can expect this type of draconian response from an authoritarian regime. As FA Hayek pointed out repeatedly in his fabulous book The Road to Serfdom, collectivist regimes cannot tolerate any form of dissidence whatsoever.

But, what about here, in the United States? The possibility of a communications blackout was a concern just this year, before Inauguration Day.

America has seen a massive erosion of Second Amendment rights for decades now. Freedom of speech – an issue that hits close to home – has ramped up over the past year. Virtually any American voice out there that questions the mainstream media, government-approved talking points is silenced.

It wasn’t that long ago that Zero Hedge, one of the biggest alternative news sites on the internet, got demonetized by Google. Even more recently, The Organic Prepper was labeled a disinformation site, causing us to be defunded. We have seen social media networks joining the so-called fight against misinformation. The virtual book-burning of alternative news sites has been ongoing for a few years and accelerating at a terrifying speed. Alternative points of view are rapidly wiped off the internet as social media purges them for the sin of dissent.

What is the future of communications for the United States?

It wasn’t long ago that California decided privately-owned ham radio repeaters on public land throughout the state needed to be removed. Authorities stating owners of repeaters who failed to do so would be subject to hefty fines.  

The number of ham radio operators exploded over the past year and a half as people became more preparedness-minded. I’ve noticed some of these hams are using their knowledge to start a local news-sharing network within my community. All members are pro-freedom Americans who set up shop for an hour or so to discuss the collectivist policies by local politicians.

We’ve seen virtually every other means of communications wholly shut down for those who love America. About all we have left is an ever-smaller growing slice of the internet and ham radio. Check out this article about emergency communications planning and get prepared. At the rate we’re being silenced, it seems only a matter of time.

How long will it be before it all gets shut down in the United States?

What are your thoughts?

Do you think such a blackout could ever happen here? What about a clampdown on ham radio? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the comments.

About Aden

Aden Tate has a master’s in public health and is a regular contributor to PewPewTactical.com, SurvivalBlog.com, SHTFBlog.com, ApartmentPrepper.com, HomesteadAndPrepper.com, and PrepperPress.com. Along with being a freelance writer he also works part-time as a locksmith. Aden has an LLC for his micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has two published books, The Faithful Prepper and Zombie Choices. You can find his podcast The Last American at Preppers’ Broadcasting Network.

Aden Tate

Aden Tate

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32 Responses

  1. Been a ham for years. Unfortunately I sold my HF gear some time ago. Still use 2 meter, and have encouraged others in the area to get licensed for the purpose of emergency comms. I realized I should have the capability of ‘out of the area’ comms so I added an inexpensive HF 10 meter rig. However the 10 meter band is seldom open. So just yesterday I ordered an ICOM IC-7300 HF/6 meter transceiver. Even if you never transmit, just listening on the HF bands is an excellent source of information. If you have the more basic preparations covered I would encourage you to now look towards establishing a dependable means of alternate comms.

    1. I’d say if it gets super bad, no licensed operator is going to give a crap about unlicensed comms. Just getting info out is the important part. I’ll let you agree or disagree. But that sounds like common sense to me.

  2. NO! – Or else someone needs to tell those Cubans to quit yelling “LIberty” and start yelling “Food” and “Medicine!”
    There are NO restrictions on food and medicine! Those are EXCLUDED from the embargo’s on Cuba!

  3. Yes.
    Based on how the internet is already being censored in our formerly “free” country, it will happen.
    The first targets attacked in any military operation are communication assets. Disruption of communication is ALWAYS key to fighting any enemy, even when that “enemy” is your fellow countrymen.

  4. yes.

    they created the ability when everything went digital. simply broadcast a scramble over the digital frequency, and all but old scool analog rigs will be useless.

    we already shut down police scanners in areas surrounding emergencys, like MCIs
    the fire chief in charge of a scene can pinpoint what areas to cut cell phone and internet based on their ‘map box plan’.

  5. To a degree it can happen here. Enough so to make a difference. Can it be completely shut down? I don’t think so as the land mass and population are too great.
    They already rely on HAMs to snitch each other off because they lack resources to keep track.
    Look at how cartels in Mexico run guerrilla radio operations successfully for a decent lesson.

  6. I’ve never paid much attention to ham radio. Does anyone else find it extremely creepy that the government already has rules in place to stop that platform from being a source of news?
    For us it is equipment we don’t have the budget(or room) for and no one we know is into it.
    While using it as a means to farm information post shtf is interesting the complication is you won’t know what is accurate info and what is smoke.

  7. It might be useful to review the history of samizdat (self-publishing in Russian)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samizdat

    and how dissenters inside the former communist USSR sneaked state-uncontrolled typewriters from abroad into their home territory to create and reproduce documents, and even books that eventually helped to bring down the communist system. One such book was Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s GULAG ARCHIPELAGO, a 3-volume book that in today’s era Vladimir Putin explained is now required reading in all Russian high schools.

    Now consider the impact such works had in a pre-internet, pre-semi-conductor era not that distant in history from smoke signals.

    –Lewis

  8. BIGGER YET !!!
    Biden will probably copy Packastans plan,
    No jab, NO CELL PHONE !!!
    U.S. People just can’t live without their C.P. ,!!

    1. Some of us long for the days of yore, when we somehow survived without all this technology. I don’t know how we made it here. ????

  9. TPTB (The Powers That Be) can shut down information flow over the iternet, and from some reports over the last few years, have. Those reports being about some internet outages that have occurred have been tests of the system to do the shutdown.

    There is no one, single switch (as far as I know) that can turn off the internet across the entire US. It has to be done from a (very) small number of locations where the primary hubs that direct the internet traffic from where it is coming from to where the address it is supposed to be going are located. There are not that many of them.

    Now, fortunately, the US military, through the efforts of DARPA, the originators of the internet as we know it, have a separate system that is protected from many types of attacks, and, of course, they control those switches.

    This means that sections of the internet can be turned off if there is a localized problem, or with the coordinated effort (for which training has taken place, and, I believe, live testing) the entirety of the US with a tiny handful of exceptions, can be shut down.

    With Cuba the size that it is, and the way the infrastructure was allowed to be installed, they can shut theirs down easily with one or two switch throws.

    The cell phone systems here in the US are the same. Regionally with just a few actions, and nationally with the coordination of those regional system controls.

    Amateur Radio is a different kettle of fish. It is pretty much impossible to shut down every HF and LF Amateur Frequency. For several reasons. One is that the frequencies that Amateurs use are interspersed among frequency groups that many other people use, including the US Government, the US Military, State Governmets, Business Band users, and several frequencies that are used to coordinate communications across various state, county, and local agencies to be sure everyone that needs specific information will get it from reliable sources.

    While modern jammers can be extremely powerful, and can have fairly precise bandwidths that can be jammed, it is, again, as far as I know, to jam the dozens of frequency bands that Amateur Radio operators use without causing a great deal of interference to many other users.

    Now, for short periods, which only those doing the jamming would know, entire spectrums (though still limited in bandwidth) can be jammed, shutting out everyone, for a specific timeframe, whereup the jammers would be switched over to another band and the same thing done, so that first set of frequencies can be used again. Without knowing when and where, it becomes extremely difficult for individual Amateur Radio operators to track it, and use the open frequencies and then switch to another set of open frequencies when the first is jammed, thereby achieving near constant communications.

    One of the complicating factors for that is that only certain bands can be used at a given time of day where the transmitting station is located and where the receiving station is located. This narrows down the number of frequencies TPTB need to jam at any one time.

    Now, one of the problems that the jammers have, besides those already mentioned, is that jamming can only be done over a limited area at a time by each jammer. That is, unless there are jammers on some of the satellites that have enough power to jam over a much wider area. And that is not beyond the realm of possibility, considering that it does not take much power to talk from the satellites to the earth. Whether these jammers exist, and are deployed (or can be deployed quickly) is something I do not have information, unfortunately. If they do, that does complicate things greatly for Amateurs.

    Another problem the jammers have is that they transmit power signals that interfere with receivers. They do not do anything to transmitters. Transmitters can still be operating, sending out signals, and if certain circumstances are correct, then someone can hear them outside the range of the jammers.

    This fact is why I am not sure why we are not hearing anything from Cuba from Amateurs. The only thing I can think of is that along with jammers, oppressive governments also always use triangulating transmitter hunters to locate people transmitting. With the coordination with those doing the jamming, the jammers can pause their transmission for a few seconds to a few minutes, to allow the transmitter hunters to triangulate any signals that they hear. Which will usually be the ‘us’ rather than the ‘them’, thereby giving them the location where they can go pick up, or kill, the illegal station operators. And in the case of Cuba, if they follow the old methods, the operators’ families, dogs, cats, and probably even the rats.

    With the size of the US, again barring space-based jammers and transmitter hunters, it would take many weeks, and probably months to track down all the US Amateur operators that would be trying to help with communications for the ‘good guys’.

    Mention was made in some of the replies about the expense of getting into Amateur Radio. It does not have to be, but high-end equipment certainly is. However, to take advantage of the Amateur Radio community being a licensed and well-equipped Amateur operator oneself is not actually required.

    A decent Shortwave radio, as long as it is designed to receive SSB signals as well as AM can be used to listen to Amateur Radio communications. Not every Shortwave receiver has all the bands needed, but most of the modern ones do. And have the SSB feature. You do have to check, however, as definitely not all do.

    Besides listening to US Amateur Radio operators, at the right time of day, on the right frequency, Shortwave and foreign broadcast stations can be heard, giving a couple more sources of information that TPTB here would have a hard time stopping. Jamming, of course, if it is being done in your area, will interfere with certain frequencies, usually the ones that are correct to be getting that information from abroad.

    There are work arounds to all of these problems, but like all other difficult prepping barriers, they take some research, thinking outside of the box, pushing the envelope, some training, and a certain amount of equipment.

    I do not think it could ever be the way it is in Cuba at the moment, with the one (huge) caveat that space-based, wide-band, high-powered jammers and transmitter hunters with triangulation capability could really change that to the point where it could be like Cuba. However, if that were to happen, I believe that many of those that consider themselves to be part of TPTB will find out they are not and will be almost as adversely affected as we commoners. They will not like that and will start pushing back. Many of them are elected officials and will at least try to get things changed so they have the freedoms they expect, which would help us. Though, if it is to that point, I have a feeling they will also not be immune to winding up in a FEMA camp incommunicado. Or dead. Probably suicide by shooting themselves in the back of the head three times, with their hands tied. Maybe that can be done by some people. Who really knows. It sure has been happening a great deal lately with other aspects of US life.

    I would greatly appreciate any information anyone can pass along where I might be in error with some of what I am posting. And even more so on the status of space-based jammers and transmitter triangulation systems. If they exist, if they are deployed already, or if they are ready to be deployed when one of the Keyhole-11 or Lacrosse spy satellites (or their current and/or future follow-on systems) goes up to supplement or replace an existing one.

    Of course, all of this is:ac Just my opinion.

    1. I’m sure almost everything you said is correct. I’m simply thinking a way for them to shut down the endless repeaters would do a lot of damage to ground operations of us ‘peasants’.

  10. This is the point when you realise that it isn’t enough to have radio equipment. It’s much better to know somebody with knowledge of electronics that understands how these things work and could even build a radio transmitter from scratch, if it came to that.

    The generation that understood basic radio is literally dying. I went to a large bookshop the other day to check their books on electronics, and only one of them had a page about radio. One page.

    Go find somebody who knows the basics of radio, or learn yourself, before it’s too late.

  11. Folks……think this through! I was about to take my FCC test for Amateur Radio Technician. Getting on two government lists is required. First is a gov’t list to even sign up to take test. Second list is once passing test one is placed on FCC list with your name-address-phone number-email-call name, etc. My family here in Utah and in California alerted me that the FCC would have all data on me, and add that list to other gov’t lists such as Water Treatment-Water Distribution certification lists, and concealed carry and gun registration lists….my family cautioned that the FCC list is a big fat bullseye on my back increasing my number of gov’t lists exposure and scrutiny.

    2-3 weeks ago I read about a Cuban ex-pat HAM in Florida getting through jamming and chatting with a couple of Cuban HAMs. The next day they were gone. Golly…Gee! That American HAM put the Cubans in dire danger communicating with them. We all know The Gov’t can track HAMs horsing around against the rules, get tracked and get whacked. This Am. HAM may have gotten the Cuban HAMs killed. Because that’s what totalitarians do. Plus Gov’ts have lists of all HAM’s .

    So why get on another Gov’t list and draw more attention to yourself?!

    “It wasn’t long ago that California decided privately owned HAM repeaters on public land throughout the state needed to be removed. Authorities stating owners of repeaters who failed to do so would be subject to hefty fines.”

    Quote from this article. See what’s coming!

    I’d love to get my HAM license to aid in natural emergencies. Don’t forget and be aware that tyranny is rolling out. They control the internet kill switch(es) and sat phone kill switch. And FCC lists. I’ll learn and just listen…thanks!

    No Radio For Me in Southern Utah

    1. Dear Range Front Fault,

      Your government know more about you already than what you would ever believe. Don´t let this discourage you and get your call signal. I never did it when I could in Venezuela and now I regret it. Sure, I wasn´t going to transmit anything sensitive. It´s not like I have nothing interesting in that regard, of course.

      Just don´t mention anything that could get you in trouble if you believe you could be tracked. And come on, we all know how Cuba and North Korea are, don´t we?

      The versatility I foresee through radio is, for instance, if there is the need to take a family member to urgent medical care under critical conditions, and you could make a radio call to ask for help, or the EMR preparing for the arrival of the patient, or coordinate field works, and so on. All of this when cellphone networks or some other comms are gone, of course.

      1. Pre cell phone, my uncle, a ham operator since the 1920s, help relay messages around the world. He was proud of his radio work. He had the moris code hook up on a light so he could “read” messages in the dark and a call bell so he’d wake up in the middle of the night.

        He was also a Pan American navigator from about 1930. He was stationed in many different South American countries from the 1930s into WWII. He was aboard for landings in planes on new jungle air strips quickly cleared with machetes. 1938 he walked 30 days on two broken ankles after a plane crash. He walked into Medein, Columbia in October 1938. Radio operators got him a medical flight along with his new son, a 6 month premi, and his wife. They were flown to Panama. Radio operators saved many lives. He was proud of that “brotherhood” as he called it.

  12. Dear amigos,

    I believe, and strongly insist, preppers all over the world need to contact each other with acquaintances and collaborators via radio, even as a secondary method. Too bad the fast expansion of the cellphone services and Internet wiped out the Earth developments like Radio Packet, which would have been great for little guys like me, with a house in the mountain and no cellphone signal there, but with the necessity of communicating with the nearby town 20 km away. Just texting and access under these circumstances would allow to optimize our production: knowing how many kilos of smoked fish, salami, eggs, banana brandy and vegetables one should take to the town it would be enough to make a weekly trip a profitable one, these days where you can´t get any fuel.

  13. As fearful as the left seems to be of any disagreement or or opposing thought… yes I think a shut down is to be expected. Just look at the popular cancel culture already at work.

    1. I’ve always thought about shortwave radio but used to always have a home base and all vehicle 40 Chanel CBS. I’m considering doing that again.
      I have sets of walkitalkis for close friends if phones/power are gone. I have batteries and solar chargers for phones and batteries. Hope they would work. Neighbors will be more important than far off operators. For news or sharing thoughts shortwave would be great if they still work. Not so sure anything will work except equine or shanks horses.

  14. Yes, in commie-cal countries they just DO IT. In America they have to call it a FF operation. But it’s the same thing.

  15. One option not mentioned is WIFI mesh communications. Most people live in areas where there are multiple WIFI signals, most of which are for good reason locked down. But with the proper software, messages can be sent from node to node over long distances. Or one could buy $10 Raspberry Pi Zero computers with the proper software set them up as mesh nodes. Many years ago there was a computer designated for third world students that had mesh nodes built in. I hadn’t thought of mesh systems for years, so I don’t know what’s out there, this discussion on communications reminded me that mesh systems should be almost impossible to shut down, outside of shutting down electricity everywhere.

    Does anyone have more information on mesh communications?

    Note to Jose: Packet radio is alive and well. But it is mostly restricted to shorter wavelengths for technical reasons, like 2 meter or shorter. Above 10 meters it’s all analog. There is PSK-31 for longer wave communications, but that’s slow. If you live in a valley, forget about radio communications unless you have a repeater station at the top of the hill that can connect with other stations outside the valley. The same thing applies to cell phones too.

  16. Not a ham. I have several CBs, and a mix of FRS and GMRS radios, but that’s it
    .
    My question is how likely are they to be able to block sat phones.
    It’s something I’ve been considering for family.

    1. Satellite phones are easy. All the government or TPTB have to do is tell the carrier services to turn off access to the satellites.

      Just my opinion.

  17. Snail mail might be an alternative, but only if you have your contacts in place beforehand and I would suggest setting up a code. A post card to “Uncle Fred” is about as open a communiqué as you could mail, so censors have nothing to open, and talking about the baby having problems teething and running a fever could be a code for “Food supplies running low; heavy police presence”.
    You gotta get sneaky to get around “the Man”.

  18. Oh don’t worry about Cuba, FL guv is going to get them internet.
    The internet is fragile – besides relying on power, weak (read: not secure) code abounds. Actually anything relying on computer code is fragile – particularly non-mainframe code. All the new bells and whistles pushed to any non-mainframe platform should be given a healthy amount of skepticism. The push to “deploy” gives testing the short shrift.
    As to blocking cell, ham radio – where there’s a will there is a way.

  19. Well, no matter what; if SHTF, I’m headed straight for the swamp. I might have to endure some hardship along the way, but that’s my destination no matter what. They can squelch all communications; I’m still headed to their front or back door.

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