Cuba Internet Freedom Conference Starting in Miami - NBC 6 South Florida

Reestablishing connections with the island nation and its people

Cuba Internet Freedom Conference Starting in Miami

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Cuba Internet Freedom Conference Starting in Miami

    Former political prisoner Alan Gross is taking part in the Cuba Internet Freedom Conference in Miami. (Published Monday, Sept. 12, 2016)

    Former political prisoner Alan Gross is taking part in the Cuba Internet Freedom Conference in Miami.

    Gross spent five years confined to a Cuban prison, cut off from all communication with people back here in the United States. Simple acts like playing dominoes or smoking a cigar are things he doesn't take for granted.

    He lived through it, remembering his family members who survived the Holocaust.

    "I knew that my ordeal was nowhere near as severe as theirs and yet they survived and I was part of the same gene pool," Gross said.

    The American contractor was arrested for giving computers and satellites to people on the island nation.

    "It's like drinking coffee, imagine going to a country and getting arrested for drinking Coffee, I mean it was the same basis," he said.

    Gross is one of hundreds of people gathering in Wynwood Monday for the conference, where there'll be people texting, Facetiming and searching online freely.

    In Cuba, it's not the case. Access is at least $2 an hour, which may not sound like a lot but it's an entire week's salary.

    "Actually they’re not reforming anything," Cuban activist Rosa Maria Paya said, adding that even when you can log on in Cuba, it's censored. "That’s the reality and it’s like for the rest of the word, ‘what are you talking about?' They don’t even know that, well that’s the reality."

    Gross says things are improving, slowly. He said new laws allowing families to send more items like smart phones to people in Cuba are helping. But those only go to about 30 percent of the population.

    "I do have satisfaction knowing that the relationship has progressed," Gross said.

    Get the latest from NBC 6 anywhere, anytime