IDT Telecom has begun handling international long-distance calls between the U.S. and Cuba, becoming the first U.S.-based service provider to have a direct connection to the island through an agreement with the country's telecom monopoly provider ETECSA.
In February, IDT and ETECSA signed an agreement to exchange long-distance traffic, a pact that the FCC approved last week.
"Now we can terminate and make calls directly to Cuba," said Bill Ulrey, vice president of investor relations for IDT, in a Miami Herald article.
Before this agreement was in place, U.S. service providers like IDT could not make direct calls to Cuba and were required to use another international carrier to make a final connection.
Under the terms of the agreement, IDT will be able to sell its interconnection service to other U.S.-based service providers that offer service to Cuba.
This agreement with ETECSA is part of what Ulrey said he hopes is the precursor to a broader effort where IDT sells an array of telecom and payment services in Cuba that it already sells in other Latin American countries, like topping up a prepaid phone, for example.
The Cuban government has not indicated how deep of a relationship it wants to have with IDT and other U.S.-based service providers. However, it appears that the U.S. and Cuba are open to talking to each other about potential plans.
Later this month, 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 meet with Cuban government leaders in Havana.
Assistant Secretary of State Charles Rivkin said the point of the meeting is to "see what's possible from their standpoint."
At the same time, Cuban government officials said they are willing to work with U.S.-based service providers.
"We confirmed we're ready to receive U.S. telecom companies to explore business opportunities--business that could be of benefit to both sides," Josefina Vidal, the Cuban Foreign Ministry official heading the Cuban delegation, said after the first round of U.S.-Cuba talks in January.
- The Miami Herald has this article
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