Telecommunications carriers in the U.S. will be able to offer international service to Cuba without having to apply for separate FCC authority, pursuant to the FCC’s decision last Friday to remove Cuba from the agency’s exclusion list for international Section 214 authority. Prior to last Friday’s order, Cuba had been the only remaining nation on the FCC’s Section 214 exclusion list. Carriers seeking blanket authority to provide international telecommunications services between the U.S. and foreign markets may not offer service to exclusion list countries without first obtaining separate FCC consent to serve those countries. Applications to provide international service to exclusion list countries are also processed by the FCC on a non-streamlined basis and in consultation with the State Department and other federal agencies with respect to national security, competitive and other concerns. Friday’s order, which went into effect immediately, allows carriers that already possess global Section 214 authority to provide service to Cuba as part of that blanket authority. Carriers that file new requests with the FCC, pursuant to Section 214 of the 1934 Communications Act, to offer global telecommunications services will be able to add Cuba automatically to their list of foreign destination markets.
Building on the restoration of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba last year, the FCC order corresponds with the Obama Administration’s goal of promoting “new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate.” Statistics issued recently by advocacy group Freedom House show that only 5% to 26% of Cubans have access to Internet services and that “high prices, exceptionally slow connectivity, and extensive government regulation have resulted in a pronounced lack of access to applications and services other than e-mail.” Recognizing the opportunities for U.S. firms that seek to serve the Cuban market and the potential benefits for the Cuban populace, the FCC predicted that its decision “will promote competition.”