— -- The relationship between the United States and Cuba is changing fast, and that change is already making waves in not just the political sphere, but throughout the private sector as well.
The U.S. public supports the shift more than ever, with a recent Gallup poll revealing that 46 percent of Americans view the island nation favorably, the highest number since the company started polling the question in 1996, when only 10 percent of Americans felt the same way. Here are five indications that, even though the relationship is new, it is already shifting:
- The Talks Continue: The negotiations between the United States and Cuba, which began in January in Havana after Obama’s December announced goal to improve relations, are slated to continue on Feb. 27, this time in Washington. The Cuban delegation will meet with Roberta Jacobson, head of the U.S. negotiating team, who has acknowledged the “profound differences” between the two sides but remains confident in the countries’ ability to move forward.
- Congress Visits: Since the historic announcement, there has been one trip after another with congressmen and women heading to the island nation. Most recently, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California and a group of Democratic delegates made the voyage to Cuba Tuesday in an effort to “build on the work done by many in Congress over the years,” she said in statement. The statement also outlined that the delegation’s main focus will be on “agriculture and trade.”
- Web Availability Increases: While home connections remain illegal, Internet access via nationwide state-run cafes has become cheaper, at least for the time being. Whereas Cubans had to pay $4.50 an hour before, now they will be required to pay $2.21 per hour of online time, at least until this coming April.
- Netflix Opens Doors: The streaming giant recently made its service available to Cubans, announcing that those with access to the Internet and “international payment methods” will be able to watch movies and shows from a “curated selection.” But even with a Netflix subscription, don’t forget they’d still have to pay for that Internet access.
- Entrepreneurs Get Busy: With the United States relaxing its regulations on travel to Cuba, an enterprising Fort Lauderdale man is aiming to start a ferry service using his 200-passenger catamaran that whisks tourists from Marathon City Marina in Florida to Havana in four hours. Brian Hall, who is in the process of applying for the he Office of Foreign Assets Control license that would allow his venture to take place, says that he plans to charge $169 per one-way trip and hopes to launch Dec, 1. Even though the first trip is months away, “inquiries are through the roof,” he says. “People are ready to go.”