HAVANA, March 11 (Reuters) - Direct telephone connections between the United States and Cuba have been established under the first commercial accord realized since the December rapprochement between the two longtime adversaries, Cuba’s national telecom provider said on Wednesday.
The U.S.-based IDT Corp reached an agreement with Cuba’s Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETECSA) to provide direct international long distance telephony.
This marks the first finalized agreement between companies from the two countries since the joint Dec. 17 announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro that they would restore diplomatic relations.
“The re-establishment of direct communications between the United States and Cuba will help offer greater ease and quality of communications between the people of both nations,” ETECSA said in a statement.
Even after the United States imposed an economic embargo on Cuba in the 1960s, phone communication between the two countries was still possible, with calls passing through third countries.
IDT announced on Feb. 20 the agreement was filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and was subject to FCC review.
The deal happened after Obama used executive authority to ease some of the travel and trade restrictions on Cuba. He has also asked the Congress to lift the embargo completely. Such legislation was introduced in the Senate but has been opposed by the Republican leadership. (Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Daniel Trotta)