President Obama eased several restrictions involving Cuba today, including the prohibition on U.S. telecom companies working in the nation. Specifically, the Administration will license U.S. providers to enter into roaming service agreements with Cuba’s telecom providers, and authorize U.S. providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba. Of course, this also relies on Cuba allowing the investments and roaming agreements. Currently, Cuba has one operator — Cubacel — which charges some hefty fees for using its services (an example in National Geographic from a year ago).
The administration said this about the plan: “We stand on the side of having more information rather than less information reach the Cuban people,” Dan Restrepo, a special assistant to Obama, told a news briefing (Reuters). While mobile phone services have been available for a while in Cuba until about a year ago they were reserved for the country’s elite. When the government opened up the service to the general populace long lines formed despite the high cost of the service.
The NYT has published the White House Fact Sheet: Cuba Policy, which includes the following:
Authorize Greater Telecommunications Links with Cuba
We will authorize greater telecommunications links with Cuba to advance people-to-people interaction at no cost to the U.S. government. This will increase the means through which Cubans on the island can communicate with each other and with persons outside of Cuba.
· Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.
· License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into and operate under roaming service agreements with Cuba’s telecommunications service providers.
· License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.
· License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba, except certain senior Communist Party and Cuban government officials.
· Authorize, consistent with national security concerns, the export or re-export to Cuba of donated personal communications devices such as mobile phone systems, computers and software, and satellite receivers through a license exception.