The historic reopening of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba on Wednesday may offer new opportunities for U.S. telecommunications carriers and equipment manufacturers, which, in the words of a White House press statement, “will be allowed to establish the necessary mechanisms, including infrastructure, in Cuba to provide commercial telecommunications and Internet services.”
In addition to establishing embassies in both nations and facilitating travel between the U.S. and Cuba among citizens of both countries, a White House spokesman confirmed that Wednesday’s agreement also calls for “new efforts to increase Cubans’ access to communications and their ability to communicate.” A key part of that effort involves the expansion of Internet service in Cuba where only five percent of the nation’s citizens have access to the web. Other service offerings such as fixed and wireless voice telephony are said to be “extremely limited.” The spokesman indicated that Commerce Department agencies would issue regulations “to facilitate export of telecom devices equipment, including related hardware, software and services in order to enhance communications to and from Cuba and among the Cuban people.” In remarks to the press, Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro anticipated that these measures “will provide exciting new market opportunities for our members and parallel our advocacy for expanded free trade globally.”
Meanwhile, an official at the FCC told reporters that the agency would “review its relevant policies and will continue to work with the State Department and other agencies regarding licensing telecommunications services between the United States and Cuba.” Cuba is included on the FCC’s Section 214 exclusion list, thus prohibiting carriers from providing service between the U.S. and Cuba under a “blanket” international service authorization. Applications for telecommunications service between the U.S. and Cuba are subject to State Department review. Although five carriers have been licensed by the FCC since 2010 to offer telecommunications service between the U.S. and Cuba, no U.S. carrier has reached agreement with Cuba’s domestic carrier thus far on direct delivery of telecommunications traffic to Cuba from the U.S.