FCC Opens Telecom Doors to Cuba

By Steve Anderson January 18, 2016

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) once had an Exclusion List, or a list of countries that were forbidden to receive telecommunications services without the FCC's specific approval. A recent development made the Exclusion List a thing of the past, as the final country occupying the list, Cuba, was formally removed.

With the Exclusion List's final country gone, the agency notes, both telecom companies and the FCC alike can carry on with other business without needing to spend time on approvals. The FCC noted that the Exclusion List's disappearance would mean “likely alleviate(d) administration and cost burdens....” for all involved, giving companies access to the Cuban market. The elimination of Cuba from the list, and the list itself by extension, stems from earlier attempts to open the Cuban market starting back in late 2014.

The removal of the Exclusion List wasn't the only factor that needed moving, though; starting in September, both the Department of Commerce and the Department of the Treasury got involved to take out a set of restrictions for working with Cuba, like restrictions on joint ventures, on establishing bank accounts, and even on hiring Cubans to work in operations in the region. With these points down, only the Exclusion List remained, and now that's out. There is still an economic embargo on Cuba—it would take an act of Congress to remove same—but much of the road ahead is now clear for telecom firms looking to bring the newest technology to the island.

Cuba is commonly regarded as an untapped market; decades of ill relations have left the island well behind in technological development, and that makes it mostly virgin ground for telecom firms. Back in September, Verizon Wireless noted it was the first company to offer wireless roaming in Cuba; part of what was called the “Pay-As-You-Go International Travel” plan, users could pay $2.99 a minute for calls, and $2.05 for each megabyte of data. Also, Medtronic noted that, without the Exclusion List's requirements, the company can more readily deliver “...connectivity for medical devices and services, such as remote monitoring of medical devices and exchange of medical information between the two countries.”

Some are still concerned over opening access to Cuba, especially given that the Castro regime is still essentially in place; though Fidel stepped down in 2008, his brother Raul stepped in shortly thereafter. Admittedly, the teeth of communism might seem somewhat dulled in a world environment where even China is bringing in McDonald's, but those who advocate caution don't do so without reason. Still, it does seem that telecom firms will have new opportunity in a mostly untapped market, and that's good news for telecom firms and accompanying shareholders.

Cuba's opening as a market is still a fairly new development, one that will take time to fully boil down. There's quite a bit to like about this notion, though, so hopefully a freer, more open Cuba will represent opportunity for all concerned.

The subject is sure to arise at the upcoming ITEXPO, which will cover all aspects of the telecom industry. If you want the inside scoop on the future of the telecom industry, be sure to sign up soon. 

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

Contributing Writer

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