Updated 03:31 AM EST, Thu, Nov 26, 2020

Cuba Still Cautious of U.S. Telecommunications & Internet Deals

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The United States is in a hurry to close telecommunications deals with Cuba, but the Caribbean island nation is still holding out.

After a second round of meetings held in Havana, Daniel Sepúlveda, the U.S.' coordinator for international communications and information policy in the State Department, said that the U.S. is hurrying to make progress and close telecommunications deals while President Barack Obama is still in office, Miami Herald reported.

Sepúlveda headed a 14-member delegation that held meetings from Wednesday through Friday with their Cuban counterparts, the news outlet added. The delegates discussed U.S. regulations allowing American telecommunications and Internet firms to establish a variety of commercial activities in Cuba.

Both sides described the meetings as positive, Miami Herald further reported. Sepúlveda said that U.S. companies continue to visit Cuba wishing to settle deals that would improve telecom services and Internet connectivity.

"We're doing as much as we possibly can on our side. At this point, the biggest thing that is missing is trust" -- on both countries, Sepúlveda told Miami Herald on Monday.

He noted that there are around a half-dozen proposals from U.S. and non-U.S. firms to build a North-South undersea fiber optic cable between the U.S. and Cuba, Miami Herald added. The island currently connects through satellite and an undersea fiber optic cable that links the nation to Venezuela.

Cuba has one of the slowest connectivity rates globally, and only approximately 5 to 25 percent of Cubans possess any kind of Internet service, the news outlet wrote.

Internet access in the island is also uncommon and restricted, KSWO reported. In 2015, the government established dozens of public Wi-Fi hotspots. The price, however, is too expensive for many Cubans, reaching $2 per hour.

New U.S. regulations permit American companies to sell personal communication equipment in Cuba, "work on joint ventures with Cuba's telecom monopoly ETECSA to improve the island's outdated Internet and telecom infrastructure," and set up offices in the island and take on Cubans as employees, the news outlet wrote. The new rules also allow a U.S. company to hire a private Cuban coder or other service provider.

According to KSWO, a Foreign Ministry statement said that both sides exchanged outlooks on using the Internet for "economic and social development." On Friday, the Ministry said that Cuban officials raised its concerns about the U.S. embargo's negative effects on island communications.

Despite the delay in agreements, Sepúlveda stressed out that out of any sector, the new telecom regulations is the most openly allowed by the U.S. to conduct business with Cuba, Miami Herald added.

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