In a further thawing of United States-Cuba relations, the US’ Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) International Bureau has removed Cuba from the Commission’s Exclusion List with immediate effect, making it easier for US telecommunications providers to offer facilities-based telephone and internet service between the US and Cuba.
The FCC’s Order removing Cuba from the Exclusion List for International Section 214 Authorisations was released on January 15th. The Exclusion List “identified those countries and facilities not covered by a grant of a global facilities-based Section 214 application and require a separate international Section 214.” This meant that in order to provide facilities-based service between the US and Cuba, US telecommunications companies had to file a separate Section 214 application “that would be coordinated with the State Department and processed by the Commission on a non-streamlined basis”.
Cuba was included in the exclusion list in 1996 and prior to this decision was the only remaining country on the list. In October of last year, the US State Department had recommended that the FCC remove Cuba from the Exclusion List, a reversal of the guidance the State Department had given in 2010 wherein it had recommended Cuba’s continued exclusion.
Cuba’s removal from the Exclusion List and the concomitant removal of need for separate FCC approval not only removes a bureaucratic burden on applicants, but will also likely result in time and administrative cost savings.
While the US’ embargo of Cuba remains, this move by the FCC is the latest in a series of initiatives which lift restrictions on American individuals and companies seeking to conduct business between the US and Cuba. According to the FCC Order , the FCC’s request for comments by the industry on the then proposal for Cuba’s removal from the list had received widespread support from the US telecommunications industry.
Speaking about the benefits of the move, the FCC in its order noted that:
… removing Cuba from the Exclusion List will make it easier for U.S. facilities based carriers to initiate service to Cuba, promote open communications, and help foster bilateral communications between the United States and Cuba.
Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B. is a trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.