ETECSA and U.S. phone provider agree to landmark pact

IDT Corporation, a provider of international telephony and payment services and the largest U.S.-based carrier of international long distance calls, announced on Friday (Feb. 20) that it has reached an agreement with Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA), Cuba’s national telecom provider, to exchange international long distance voice traffic between the United States and Cuba directly.

The agreement was filed today with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and is subject to FCC review for a period of 10 days, the announcement said.

If the FCC allows the agreement to take effect, IDT will be the only U.S. carrier to have a direct interconnection into Cuba.

“We are very pleased to have reached this groundbreaking agreement with ETECSA. This is an important first step in the liberalization of telecommunications between the U.S. and Cuba,” said Bill Pereira, the Portuguese-born chief executive officer of IDT Telecom.

“Ultimately, the agreement will help make it easier and more affordable for our customers to call friends and family in Cuba,” he said.

The announcement follows on the heels of revisions to the Office of Cuban Assets Control (OFAC) regulations announced by the U.S. government earlier this month.

Through its IDT Telecom division, IDT Corporation provides retail telecommunications and payment services to help immigrants and the under-banked to conveniently and inexpensively communicate around the world.

Based in Newark, N.J., IDT is a leading global carrier of international long distance calls. It is a wholesale carrier for Verizon, Teleglobe and Sprint.

In the southern United States, the company offers calling-card services in Florida, Georgia and Texas. In the northeast it offers calling cards in most states, including New Jersey, a state with a large Cuban population.

In Havana on Friday, ETECSA issued a two-paragraph announcement saying that “the re-establishment of direct communications between the United States and Cuba will permit better facilities and quality in the communication between the peoples of both nations.”

“It is an important step as it will facilitate communications quickly and safely,” said an ETECSA source to Progreso Weekly Company in exchange for anonymity.

ETECSA is investing heavily in infrastructure, the removal and improvement of wiring (cable line) networks, the existing telephone system, and is undertaking connection of WIFI in heavily populated places of the Cuban capital,” he added.

The communications infrastructure is essential to updating projects and changes taking place in Cuba. Not only does it respond to the growing demands of citizens, it “is also one of the concerns of potential investors accustomed to high-speed connections and bandwidth,” said the source.

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