FCC opens up phone and internet traffic from US to Cuba

20 January 2016 | Alan Burkitt-Gray


The US Federal Communications Commission has dropped its ban on the country’s telecoms operators providing services to Cuba.

The regulator had already allowed IDT and Sprint to offer services to the island, following the Obama administration’s gradual ease of sanctions against Cuba from December 2014, but now all US operators can provide services for their customers. 

The FCC said: “By removing Cuba from the exclusion list, the Commission opens the door for US telecom carriers to provide facilities-based telephone and internet service to Cuba without separate approval from the Commission. Cuba was the last remaining country on the Commission’s exclusion list.”

The US blocked phone calls to Cuba in 1960 as part of its embargo against the Fidel Castro government. 

Cuba has one fixed and mobile operator, Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba or Etecsa, and the country is seen as offering one of the world’s last green-field sites for opening up mobile competition after Myanmar offered new licences in 2014.

Operators in the US will still need FCC approval before they can offer services to Cuba. The regulator said: “This action allows carriers seeking new international section 214 authority for facilities-based service to Cuba to receive such authority sooner, and permits carriers with existing global section 214 authority to provide services between the United States and Cuba without additional authorisation.” 

The change “will promote competition on the US-Cuba route”, said the FCC.