On August 11, 2021, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) and the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) issued a joint Fact Sheet: Supporting the Cuban People’s Right to Seek, Receive, and Impart Information through Safe and Secure Access to the Internet (the “Fact Sheet”) and a related press release. The Fact Sheet highlights the most relevant exemptions and authorizations pertinent to supporting the Cuban people through the provision of certain internet and related telecommunications services. The Fact Sheet does not have the force of law and does not supersede any relevant statutes or regulations. Rather, it was issued to emphasize President Biden’s commitment to ensuring the Cuban people have access to internet and telecommunication services and to encourage the free flow of information in and with Cuba. For additional information on the Biden-Harris administration’s position on Cuba, please see the White House Fact Sheet here.
As noted in the Fact Sheet, although almost all transactions subject to US jurisdiction involving Cuba are prohibited under the Cuba embargo, BIS and OFAC have issued several license exceptions, general licenses (“GLs”), exemptions, and frequently asked questions (“FAQs”) related to the provision of internet-based services in Cuba. Telecommunications and internet-based services and items the export of which to Cuba may be authorized or exempt from prohibitions include:
- Software and services for Cuban internet users;
- Provision of telecommunications services and establishment of telecommunications facilities;
- In-country presence of internet and telecommunications providers;
- Internet-based distance learning and educational training;
- Export and import of information and informational materials;
- Items in Support of the Cuban People e.g. certain items for the creation and upgrade of telecommunications infrastructure to improve the free flow of information to, from, and among the Cuban people, including infrastructure that enables access to the internet and use of internet services; and
- Consumer Communications Devices.
These license exceptions, GLs, and exemptions vary in scope and should be carefully analyzed before exporting or re-exporting any items or providing any services to Cuba or the Cuban people.