Telecom Timeout

Apr 16 2009   5:46PM GMT

The revolution can now be televised

WPeterson William Peterson Profile: WPeterson

Even as The New York Times Magazine sees the end of the Cuban revolution at hand, Obama is strengthening long-severed ties with the lone Communist country in the Americas by loosening trade restrictions, particularly those related to communications.

As the Miami Herald reports, service providers are now free to build communication links to the island nation of over 11 million people, including fiber and satellite links, as well as develop cellular roaming agreements within the country.

The Herald notes that at least some service providers are weighing the opportunity:

”We will look at any change in U.S. policy very closely, and should a new market opportunity arise in Cuba, carefully consider our options,” said DirecTV senior vice president Jon Gieselman.

AT&T, Verizon and Sirius Radio had no immediate comments. Enrique Lopez, who runs AKL Group, an international telecommunications company in Coral Gables, doubted that the Cuban government would allow much in the way of more open communications.

”Anything that attempts to bypass government control will be politely rejected,” he said.

Eight U.S. companies are licensed by the Federal Communication Commission to provide long-distance service to Cuba through cable or satellite, including AT&T and Verizon. It’s not clear how many actually provide the service, however.

While the Cuban government can be difficult to work with, particularly if a company wants to offer unfettered communication , those 11 million potential customers (only an estimated 200,000 of which have cell phones) could make it hard for carriers to resist Havana Nights.

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