Jan. 15 — U.S. telecommunications carriers such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. can now offer telephone and Internet services to Cuba without the need for special approval from the Federal Communications Commission, the agency said Jan. 15.
The landmark change comes thanks to an order approved by the International Bureau to remove Cuba from its exclusion list of countries and facilities requiring special authorization under Section 214 of the Communications Act of 1934. Cuba was the last country on the list.
Before this change, only Sprint Corp. and Newark, N.J.-based IDT Domestic Telecom, Inc., a prepaid calling company, had sought and received approval from the FCC and State Department to offer services to the island. Now, any U.S. company can enter into direct communications with the Cuban government-run telecom provider Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA) to establish interconnection agreements, an FCC spokesman told Bloomberg BNA.
The latest announcement is a logical step in efforts by the agency and Obama administration to heal a Cold War legacy rift between the communist country and the U.S., Francisco Montero, managing partner of Arlington, Va.-based Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC, told Bloomberg BNA.
It is no secret that telecom providers, equipment manufacturers and infrastructure vendors have been trying to get into the Cuban market and help build it out, ever since the Obama administration made a historic announcement on Dec. 17, 2014, that the U.S. would liberalize trade and diplomatic restrictions with Cuba.
Even medical device maker Medtronic Plc wants in on the market. The company urged the FCC to remove Cuba from its list, claiming easier deployment for carriers would promote connectivity for medical devices and services and for the exchange of medical information between the two countries, according to the FCC’s order. New medical services and technologies are badly wanted by the Cuban government, which values its highly trained medical practitioners, investment analysts have previously told Bloomberg BNA.
“It’s new ground that they would love to be first movers in, at least from the U.S.,” Montero said. “This is lifting one of the few remaining obstacles” for them to do that.
However, it won’t necessarily be smooth sailing ahead for U.S. companies that want to do business in Cuba. Even telecom behemoths like AT&T and Verizon will have to chart the precarious waters of dealing with the Cuban government.
Companies will probably face off with a tough and experienced negotiator in the form of ETECSA, which has long experience striking deals with other international carriers to provide telecom services. Furthermore, the companies will still have to abide by the Cuban government’s financial and other restrictions.
He cautioned on the side of slow growth expectations. “The Cuban government is going to watch this carefully in terms of the kind of access to outside information that this allows their population to have access to; it’s still a controlled economy and society,” Montero said.
U.S. telecom deployment to Cuba will probably occur in baby steps, Montero said. In addition to carriers being able to offer coverage, or at least roaming service in Cuba, the appearance of storefronts may also be telltale signs of investment and agreement between U.S. carriers and ETECSA, he said.
The FCC’s action and whatever deals come next will likely make it easier for U.S. tourists traveling to Cuba to access the Internet, make calls, and use their mobile devices there, he said.
So in three to five years, tourists and possibly locals might be able to Instagram selfies of themselves sipping mojitos on the beach from Havana, depending on how willing the Cubans are to ease their social media restrictions.
By Lydia Beyoud
By Lydia Beyoud
Jan. 12 — Three agencies leading the way on spectrum sharing informed the Senate Commerce Committee that the FCC has begun its own testing in the 5.9 gigahertz (GHz) band, according to letters obtained by Bloomberg BNA.
The Department of Transportation, Federal Communications Commission and Department of Commerce National Telecommunications & Information Administration described a three-phase testing plan underway, with the FCC in the lead. At issue is spectrum allocated to automakers for vehicular safety technology—spectrum that would be shared with unlicensed technologies such as Wi-Fi.
An FCC spokeswoman confirmed a letter was sent Dec. 18 to Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), as well as to Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). A similar letter was sent to committee ranking member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and fellow Democrats Gary Peters (Mich.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) on Jan. 11.
The agencies said it was imperative for the FCC to conclude all three phases before reaching any conclusions on whether unlicensed devices can safely share the 5.9 GHz band with the auto industry’s proprietary dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology “to ensure the future automotive safety and efficiency of the traveling public.”
Spectrum Allocated in 1999.
The auto industry was allocated spectrum in that band in 1999 for the purposes of implementing technology—before the era of Wi-Fi—to avoid traffic collisions and other safety applications. The industry has been reticent to embark on any path to share that spectrum with other users, though the Senate Commerce Committee was able to make headway with industry groups in 2015 in the form of a landmark agreement to explore spectrum-sharing technologies (See previous story, 09/10/15)(2015 BAST, 9/10/15)(2015 TLN 20, 10/1/15).
Since then, mobile applications and other technologies dependent on unlicensed spectrum have flourished in the marketplace, leading technology companies and public interest groups to advocate for sharing of spectrum, one of the nation’s scarce resources.
The 5.9 GHz band is viewed as particularly desirable new territory for Wi-Fi and other unlicensed technologies because of its adjacency to the so-called U-NII-3 band of spectrum, 5725 megahertz (MHz) to 5825 MHz, where the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard currently operates. Expanding into the higher bands of 5.9 GHz spectrum and harmonizing the rules for unlicensed uses across a new swath of spectrum would result in significantly higher throughput speeds and greater spectral efficiency, according to a Jan. 12 report released by the New America Foundation Open Technology Institute (OTI).
At a Jan. 12 event hosted by the institute, two FCC commissioners threw their support behind the FCC taking the lead on spectrum-sharing testing. Democrat Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called for testing to be concluded by the end of 2016. Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said that the primary purpose of DSRC technology to support safety-of-life applications in connected vehicles and infrastructure was deserving of protection from potential interference by unlicensed users.
However, he underscored that other, more commercial, contemplated uses of the spectrum, such as to display ads, enable social media or to help drivers find parking spots, were less deserving of interference protection.
“There should be little doubt that exploring the ability to allow other uses, such as Wi-Fi, in the 5.9 GHz band, via sharing or partitioning, is the right thing to do. Even the auto industry seems to have come around to this thinking,” O’Rielly said.
NHTSA Speeding Up V2V Rulemaking.
The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is taking the position that unlicensed and DSRC technologies operating in the 5.9 GHz band can be complementary, rather than at odds, for the purpose of reducing vehicular deaths and injuries, NHTSA Deputy Administrator Blair Anderson said at the same event.
“We as a department feel very strongly about this technology,” he said of DSRC, “but we’re open to the efficient use of it.”
Anderson announced that NHTSA sent a draft notice of proposed rulemaking to require vehicle-to-vehicle equipment on all new cars and light trucks to the Office of Management and Budget Jan. 11 (See previous story, 09/09/15)(2015 BAST, 9/9/15)(2015 TLN 20, 10/1/15).
“We’re moving it through the review process because this administration’s very keen to accelerate the innovation that can take place in that arena,” he said.
I covered the introduction of a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would allow renewable energy producers to receive some of the same favorable tax treatment major oil and gas companies already enjoy.
The kicker: oil and gas companies are helping to push the bill through Congress.
Renewable energy developers may win some tax benefits from Congress that only oil and gas companies can enjoy right now.
A bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate last week would allow renewable and clean energy-related companies to structure their businesses as master limited partnerships — avoiding double taxation while also trading ownership interests on the market, similar to corporate stock, Bloomberg BNA reported.
This treatment — available to oil and gas projects and a limited number of traditional fossil fuel-related industries — gives them access to private capital at a much lower cost than investors in other energy projects, said Senator Chris Coons, the Delaware Democrat who sponsored the bill.
BALTIMORE — Derrick McLaughlin, 43, a real estate agent in Baltimore, remembers the first time he heard of the American Dream. It was when his grandmother, an immigrant from Trinidad, bought her first house in Brooklyn, N.Y., after decades of saving. That was the moment when she believed she had attained her American Dream, she told him. “You would’ve thought it was a mansion from the way she talked about it,” McLaughlin recalls, noting that she likely would never have been able to buy a house in her home country. “The idea of the American Dream is what got her to leave Trinidad” as a woman with young children, McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin believes his grandmother’s experience was emblematic of what the American Dream used to be — not an important event to everyone, but momentous for her. As for himself, he says, “I’m maybe at the three-quarter’s mark,” of achieving the American Dream. “I have the things as a kid that I thought I wanted,” but added that “the American Dream changes based on where you are in your life.”
McLaughlin was part of a recent research study on the American Dream conducted by the Investigative Reporting Workshop. For the 17 men and women interviewed, the American Dream continues to resonate. But that dream is tinged with caveats, doubts and hesitations.
Home ownership, a decent quality of life and social advancement through hard work were central to the group’s definition of the dream. Financial success is as crucial as opportunity or freedom, participants said. While optimistic about their own prospects, many said they feared for the country and for future generations.
The men and women, all from the Baltimore area, ranged in age from college students to retirees, and included low-income to upper-income participants, as well as a mix of racial and ethnic backgrounds. (See methodology.)
A matter of definition
Though most people interviewed said that the American Dream is individually defined, their responses shared common themes. These include the ability to own a home, the pursuit of education, an eventual payoff in professional success and financial security from hard work, an agreement that the dream is usually achieved later in life, and the ideal of leaving descendants better off than in themselves. There seemed to be divergent interpretations: People reported both that achieving the dream meant meeting the modest goals of living comfortably, but also that it meant becoming wealthy.
Scott Kelmer, 40, who was recently laid off from his contractor job with Verizon, said, “Everyone in the world wants to come to America,” reinforcing the group’s belief that people immigrating to this country can still “make it” through hard work and education. “Part of the dream is to be on top, and helping people while you’re there,” said Gregory Parson, 23, a pre-med student in Baltimore.
This idea was shared by a number of American University students polled in a related study, with more than half saying that the dream held more value for people outside the United States than for those already here.
First hearing about the American DreamNot surprisingly, the current economic chaos has affected the dream.