Cubans will be able to call the US directly for the first time in 15 years, as Cuba’s state telecommunications company Etsecsa said that the two countries have agreed to re-establish phone links, the BBC reported.
This is the first agreement signed by the two countries since they revealed in December that they would be pursuing diplomatic ties. The former Cold War rivals have said they plan to allow travel and commerce, as well as re-establish embassies in their respective countries.
For now, the countries will start by opening phone lines. Before the agreement, calls from Cuba to the US had to pass through a third country, making them costly.
“The re-establishment of direct communications between the United States and Cuba contributes to providing better infrastructure and better communications quality between the people and our two countries,” Etecsa said, according to the BBC.
The Miami Herald reported that Etecsa and IDT Domestic Telecom, a New Jersey-based provider this handling the US side of the deal, have been in negotiations since before President Barack Obama announced the intention to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba.
One key reason the US is working to re-establish relations with Cuba is to expand telecommunications on the island, especially the internet. Very few Cubans currently have access to the internet in their homes and rates at internet cafes can be prohibitive, according to reports.
This initial deal allowing phone calls between the two countries will not affect internet access in Cuba, but the improved infrastructure is expected to help that end in the future.
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