Reports came in this week that AT&T (News - Alert) is looking to complete a deal in Cuba later this month, during President Barack Obama’s visit to the country, planned for March 20 - 22. This visit marks the first time a U.S. president has visited Cuba in 90 years, while AT&T will be the first U.S. telecommunications provider to provide its services in Cuba following the FCC (News - Alert) International Bureau lifting the country from its exclusion list earlier this year.
It would be something of an understatement to say relations with Cuba have been strained since 1961, but Obama is looking to change this by normalizing U.S. diplomatic and economic dealings with the country. New Cuban policy regulations, approved by the Treasury and Commerce departments, were what helped the U.S. telecommunications industry gain initial exemptions from the existing embargo to invest in Cuba.
The FCC’s decision to lift Cuba from its exclusion list, however, is what really opened the doors for U.S. telecommunications companies. Before the lift, service providers would be required to get separate approval from the FCC before conducting services in Cuba.
“Removing Cuba from the Exclusion List benefits the public interest, as it will likely alleviate administrative and cost burdens on both the applicant and the commission, and will promote competition on the U.S.-Cuba route,” said a statement from the FCC.
AT&T is looking to take advantage of this new opportunity in Cuba, which has had little access in the way of options in terms of telecom services. According to Reuters (News - Alert), the provider is looking to secure a roaming agreement with Cuba’s state-run telecommunications company Etesca. A source close to AT&T’s negotiations claims that discussions are underway, but the two companies have yet to reach an agreement.
If this deal is successful, AT&T won’t be the first U.S. company to provide telecommunications services in Cuba. In September 2015, Verizon (News - Alert) became the first U.S. operator to offer roaming services in Cuba with $2.99 per minute voice calls and $2.05 per MB for data.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson