Phone Companies Urge US Government To Loosen Telecommunications Regulations For Cuba
Several of the largest telecommunications companies in the United States including AT&T, Verizon, and Nokia are urging the US government to ease regulations which currently prevent them from operating in Cuba. The regulations stem from the 47 year old trade embargo the US has enforced against Cuba due to the oppressive Castro regime. AT&T and Verizon are seeking a loosening of regulations to make it easier for telecommunications companies to directly connect calls to and from Cuba, while Nokia, the worlds largest mobile-phone manufacturer, is urging Washington to ease the embargo so it can export mobile-phone accessories from its US locations.
Under current rules, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has established a rate cap on the fee telecoms can pay the Cuban government for direct calls to Cuba which hampers the telecommunications industrys ability to do business in Cuba. Currently, US providers are only allowed to pay the Cuban government a fee no higher than 19 cents per call, however, Cuba demands 84 cents a call.
In June, Verizon wrote the FCC asking it to grant requests by others in the telecom industry for the FCC to waive its maximum rate cap rules. A copy of Verizons comments can be read at: Verizons reply to the FCC.
US telecoms are also interested in establishing roaming services on the island for US customers who visit the island as a first step to expanding cell phone services. Analysts believe that the mobile phone market in Cuba has the potential to be profitable given the islands population, 11.4 million, and the relative few between, 10 and 20 percent, who currently use mobile phone services.
The telecoms requests for greater access to Cuba come several months after the idea was first presented by the Obama administration. On April 13, 2009, President Obama issued a memorandum to the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce entitled “Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in Cuba” in which the President said that increased contacts between Cuba and the outside world would reduce Cubans dependency on the Castro regime. President Obama directed his Secretaries to take such actions as necessary to authorize US telecommunications providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the US and Cuba and to license US telecom service providers to enter into and operate roaming services agreements with Cubas telecommunications service providers. The Presidents full memorandum can be read at: White House Memo on Promoting Democracy and Human Rights in Cuba.
However, while an easing of telecommunications regulations may be in the near future, US companies looking to do business in Cuba still risk violating sanctions still in place, such as the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 that prohibits investment in Cubas telecommunications network.
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