US telecom network providers can provide voice and broadband service to Cuba without government permission following a Federal Communications Commission announcement that it has removed the island nation from its “Exclusion List.” The Exclusion List identifies countries and facilities that are not covered by grant of a global facilities-based Section 214 application and require a separate international Section 214 application filed under section 63.18(e)(3) of the Commission’s rules
“Removing Cuba from the Exclusion List benefits the public interest as it will likely alleviate administrative and cost burdens on both” telecom companies and the FCC and fuel more competition among telecom carriers interested in the market, the agency said.
The FCC order states (see references below): “We adopt our proposal to remove Cuba from the Commission’s Exclusion List. We agree with the commenters that removing Cuba from the Exclusion List will make it easier for U.S. facilitiesbased carriers to initiate service to Cuba, promote open communications, and help foster bilateral communications between the United States and Cuba.”
The move has been anticipated following the Obama administration’s decision in late 2014 to reopen diplomatic relations with the island nation. At the time of the dramatic announcement, the U.S. government said telecommunications companies will be among the first industries to to set up equipment and other infrastructure projects needed to begin their services.
IDT Telecom, Netflix, Sprint and Verizon began offering services early last year. Cuba’s state-owned and operated telecom ETECSA struck an agreement with IDT to provide direct international long-distance voice calls between the two countries. Verizon and Sprint began offering international mobile services in the country, while Netflix launched its streaming video services in Cuba.
In September, 2015, the U.S Commerce and Treasury departments followed through by removing a series of restrictions on Americans traveling to and doing business with Cuba. The changes, ranging from investment to banking to joint ventures, enabled American businesses to establish a “physical presence” in Cuba and hire Cubans to work in their offices.
The U.S. economic embargo on Cuba remains in effect since only an act of Congress can lift it and then only if numerous conditions are satisfied.