On August 11, 2021, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) and the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a fact sheet noting existing exemptions and authorizations available for companies, individuals and exporters to provide telecommunications-related goods and services to Cuba. The fact sheet lists OFAC general licenses (authorizations) and BIS license exceptions for exports, reexports and in-country transfers for telecommunications equipment, technology and services in Cuba pursuant to the Cuba Assets Control Regulations, 31 CFR Part 515 (CACR) and the Export Administration Regulations, 15 CFR Part 740.

While the fact sheet reiterates that most transactions between the United States and Cuba are prohibited, the U.S. government does authorize certain activities aimed at supporting the Cuban people’s access to information and the internet. Specifically, OFAC has authorized the following activities, including but not limited to:

  • The provision of services incident to the exchange of communications over the internet and services related to the exportation and reexportation of certain communications-related items (CACR §§ 515.578, 515.533);
  • The provision of telecommunications services and establishment of telecommunications facilities linking the United States or third countries to Cuba (CACR § 515.542); and
  • Transactions necessary to establish and maintain certain telecommunications or internet-based services in Cuba (CACR § 151.573).

The BIS also highlights that the following license exceptions are available under the EAR for exports and reexports to Cuba of certain telecommunications and internet-based commodities, software and technologies related to:

  • Consumer communication devices (e.g., mobile phones, TV and radio receives, modems, etc.) (EAR § 740.19); and
  • Items in support of the Cuban people intended to improve the free flow of information and the creation and upgrade of telecommunications infrastructure that enables internet access (EAR § 740.21).

For transactions and items falling outside the scope of these authorizations, the BIS and the OFAC have favorable licensing policies that will prioritize requests related to internet freedom in Cuba. The OFAC has favorable licensing policies toward specific license requests involving transactions that are necessary to ensure that the Cuban people have a safe and secure access to the internet. The BIS has a general license of approval for telecommunications items and internet-related items intended to improve communications to and from the Cuban people.