First U.S. Telecom Company Connects Directly with Cuba


IDT, the first U.S. company to strike a long-distance deal with Cuba since the Obama administration announced a telecom opening toward the island is now handling direct calls to Cuba. IDT reached an agreement with ETECSA (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba) and began doing business last Wednesday.

“Now we can terminate and make calls directly to Cuba,” said Bill Ulrey, vice president of investor relations for Newark, New Jersey-based IDT Corp. Previously, U.S. carriers couldn’t make direct calls to Cuba and had to use a non-U.S. carrier for the final connection.

IDT reached an agreement with Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba (ETECSA), the island’s national telecom provider, to exchange international long-distance traffic in February, and the Federal Communications Commission gave IDT the green light for the deal earlier this week. IDT began doing business with ETECSA on Wednesday.

The telecom opening, which was announced in December as part of the White House’s plan to renew diplomatic relations with Havana, allows U.S. companies to sell personal communications equipment in Cuba, as well as to work on projects to improve Cuba’s outdated Internet and telecom infrastructure.

At this point, it’s unclear how far the Cuban side is prepared to go with the telecom opening but developments are starting to percolate on both sides of the Florida Straits.

A U.S. delegation led by Daniel Sepulveda, the State Department Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs’ coordinator for international communications and information policy, will head to Havana later this month to meet with their Cuban counterparts.

The goal is to “see what’s possible from their standpoint,” said Assistant Secretary of State Charles Rivkin. Cuban officials say they’re ready to work with U.S. telecommunications companies. [. . .]

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