Internet services and cheaper phone calls possible

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban state telecommunications monopoly, ETECSA, reached an agreement with a US company to restore direct communications between the two countries, informed the official government media on Friday.

“We are pleased to have reached this groundbreaking agreement with ETECSA” confirmed the company IDT Telecom in a statement, in which it also noted that the US authorities have ten days to approve the agreement.

“It’s an important step in the liberalization of telecommunications between the US and Cuba,” said the CEO of the company, Bill Pereira.

The agreement will make possible direct long distance voice traffic between the two countries, according to IDT.

Meanwhile, ETECSA confirmed that it has reached an agreement with IDT to allow “direct interconnection” between Cuba and the United States, without elaborating on the agreed upon services.

Both parties “have concluded talks in order to sign a Services Agreement for the Operation of International Telecommunications” said ETECSA.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) now has ten days to respond to the request for approval of the agreement, noted IDT, based in New Jersey.

“The restoration of direct communications between the United States and Cuba will allow easier and better quality communications between the peoples of the two countries,” said ETECSA.

etecsaIf the agreement is approved, IDT will become the first US Company to provide direct services to Cuba.

The governments of Washington and Havana announced in mid-December a historic agreement to restore diplomatic relations after more than half a century.

As part of the rapprochement with the old ideological rival, the Obama administration lifted some of the restrictions of the trade embargo on the island in place since the 1960s, including impediments to US telecommunications companies providing services to Cuba.

The goal is for the Cuban population to have better access to telecommunications, including the Internet, the White House has stated on several occasions.

The Cuban government traditionally blames the US embargo for the poor condition of the telecommunications networks on the island, where the infrastructure still operates largely based on satellite connections. To date, Cubans are not allowed to contract Internet services in their homes, with some exceptions.

Telephone calls abroad, especially to the US, have a very high price for the population, many times the rate in other countries. If implemented the agreement should produce a considerable reduction of charges.


8 thoughts on “Cuban & US Firms Reach Telecommunications Accord

  • I got clarification on IDT — they say *they* do not use fiber or satellite, but exchange traffic with someone who does. They would not say where the IX is, but Venezuela is a good guess. PR talk :-).

  • In trying to pin down some details on this deal, I received the following quote from IDT:

    “We will interconnect directly with ETECSA at an internet peering point. As such there will be no necessity to use fiber or satellite technology.”

    Can anyone explain to me what this means?

  • The reality of this agreement is that the Castros finally agreed to pay IDT their share of the long distances tolls collected from telephone calls made from Cuba using prepaid phone cards. In the past, Cuba kept the entire toll collected despite the international toll-sharing norms usually agreed to between Telecoms. Worse yet, Cuba charged the HIGHEST tolls levied for long-distance calls in Latin America. I can personally attest to per-minute rates exceeding $3.00. Elsewhere in Latin America, rates seldom exceed 99 cents per minute. It remains to be seen if the Castros will actually honor this new contract. Time will tell.

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