Obama Says Google Has a Deal To Expand Internet Access in Cuba

March 21, 2016, 12:47 PM UTC
Photogaph by Nicholas Kamm—AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba this week is drawing attention to the fact that just 5% of its citizens have access to the Internet.

But Cuba’s reputation for having a society devoid of online communication could soon change, thanks to a deal the island nation has struck with Google (GOOGL), which Obama mentioned during an interview Sunday.

In a conversation with ABC News, the President said, “one of the things that we’ll be announcing here is that Google has a deal to start setting up more Wi-Fi access and broadband access on the island.”

Google did not immediately return Fortune‘s request for comment.

Obama—who’s traveling with an entourage of business executives, but none from Google—made the comments in response to a question about how the U.S.’s normalization of relations with Cuba and its loosening of embargoes will affect the Cuban people.

The U.S., the president said, should not view itself as an agent of change but instead “encourage and facilitate” change that empowers Cubans—including expanding access to the Internet.

“Over time,” he said, “if in fact you start seeing access to the Internet—which is necessary for Cuba to enter the 21st Century economically—invariably that gives the Cuba people more information and allows them to have more of a voice.”

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There’s been speculation that Google was maneuvering for a foothold in Cuba as the U.S. becomes more friendly with its one-time Cold War foe.

In June, Politico reported that a Google executive was visiting Cuba to explore bringing better Internet access to the island. And in July, there were reports that Google executives had presented the Cuban government with a plan to expand Internet access on the island, and that officials there were skeptical of it. At the time, a Google spokesperson told El Nuevo Herald that the tech company was “working to help the Cuban government think through their publicly stated goal of improving Internet access,” and that it had not given any money to Cuba to develop Internet connectivity.

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