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Look for tech, telecom to survive Trump's Cuba rollback

June 16, 2017

The president is expected to announce today he’s reimposing restrictions on U.S.-Cuba relations that his predecessor started loosening in 2014. But among the Obama-era exemptions Trump will leave in place, a senior White House official said on a pre-announcement briefing call with reporters, are “expanding telecommunications access and internet access to the Cuban people.” Trump, said a second official, is eager to “encourage the Cuban people through economic interaction, and that process has been started — you can’t put the genie back in the bottle one-hundred percent.”

Indeed, one of the reasons the Obama administration focused so heavily on bringing tech to Cuba was the thinking that once the island started getting truly online, that connectivity would have a momentum all its own. (Another reason: the Congress-issued embargo gives the president more leeway over telecom than over other sectors.) And in the years since, early forays by American tech companies into Cuba have been among the thaw’s more tangible outcomes — like Google’s experience as the first foreign internet company to operate in Cuba, a role that Alana Tummino of the American Society and Councils of the Americas calls a prime example of “the progress we’ve made in trust between our two countries....”

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