General Licensing for Communications
The Department of State has been engaged with the Departments of the Treasury and Commerce to issue regulatory authorizations that facilitate personal communications for the people of Iran, Cuba, and Sudan. As explained further below, these authorizations permit the exportation and re-exportation of certain personal communications hardware and software, as well as related services, from the United States or by U.S. persons to people in these countries, which are subject to comprehensive sanctions programs. In the case of Cuba, there are additional authorizations that allow for a range of telecommunications-related services involving the United States or third countries and Cuba. These are critical measures that will facilitate access to these important means of communications. This reflects U.S. commitment to the principle of freedom of expression, as well as to ensuring that our sanctions do not unnecessarily or disproportionately impact ordinary people.
In 2013, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued General License D for Iran with respect to Certain Services, Software, and Hardware Incident to Personal Communications, which was updated in 2014 by General License D-1 (GL-D1). GL-D1 permits the exportation and re-exportation of certain services and devices incident to personal communications. This license facilitates the Iranian people’s access to the free flow of information. For more information about GL-D1, please refer to: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/iran_gld1.pdf
In December 2014, President Obama announced a new direction for U.S. policy toward Cuba. The Obama Administration believes that that the best way to support our interests is openness rather than isolation. The new measures announced by the President are intended to empower the Cuban people, facilitate greater people-to-people contact, foster the growth of the nascent Cuban private sector, and further enhance the free flow of information, to, from, and among the Cuban people. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Threat Finance and Sanctions Andrew Keller has emphasized the importance of personal communications in achieving these goals: “Telecommunications and internet-related services are a centerpiece of the recent changes in our Cuba sanctions regime. We want to do what we can to get the Cuban people connected to the internet, have them using modern devices, and facilitate their communications with people on and off the island.” To implement the sanctions-related portions of the President’s announced changes in the area of telecommunications, OFAC amended its Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), 31 CFR Part 515, in January to authorize the establishment of mechanisms to provide commercial telecommunications facilities linking the United States or third countries and Cuba. This includes facilities to provide telecommunications services within Cuba. In addition, the January regulatory changes broaden an existing authorization for transactions incident to the provision of telecommunications services—including internet connectivity—involving Cuba, and expand the internet-based services that can be provided to Cuban nationals. For more information, please refer to http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/31cfr515_new.pdf. Additionally, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) undertook related amendments in January to its Export Administration Regulations (EAR), which now include, among other things, a license exemption for the export and re-export to Cuba of certain commercially sold, as well as donated, consumer communications devices and software and a license exception for the exportation and re-exportation to Cuba of certain items for telecommunications. More information can be found at http://www.bis.doc.gov/index.php/policy-guidance/country-guidance/sanctioned-destinations/cuba.
In February 2015, the Department of Treasury and the Department of Commerce made parallel regulatory changes to allow the export and re-export of certain services, software, and hardware incident to the exchange of personal communications over the internet. These regulatory amendments are consistent with the U.S. Government’s commitment to allow for unfettered access to the free flow of information, thereby helping the Sudanese people. U.S. persons are now authorized to export certain no-cost and free-based software and services incident to the exchange of personal communications to Sudan, as well as to export certain smartphones and personal computers to Sudan. Please refer to http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20150217_33.aspx and http://www.bis.doc.gov/index.php/about-bis/newsroom.