Ed Royce (Republican-CA) introduced H.R. 600, the Digital GAP Act. The act is to promote Internet access in developing countries and update foreign policy toward the Internet, and for other purposes.
The bill passed the House of Representatives by a verbal 2/3 vote and was delivered to the Senate.
The purpose of the act is to encourage efforts in developing countries in order to support innovation, economic growth, improve health, education, and financial services, reduce poverty and gender inequality, assist with disaster mitigation, promote democracy and strengthen cybersecurity. The act promotes the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance and is intended to ensure effective use of U.S. foreign assistance resources to achieve these goals.
Congress found, following a study, that the number of Internet users has tripled in the last decade while the growth rate of internet access is slowing. The study found 60% percent of the world’s population has no Internet access and that 75% of these people live in only 20 countries. Rural, female, elderly, illiterate, and low income populations are the most affected. Studies indicate women are affected most by this lack of access. In developing countries, Internet access is held back by poor infrastructure and lack of regulations to promote Internet connection. The study also finds the coordinating the expansion of internet access with other infrastructure improvements, such as road building or sewer, can reduce costs by millions for these countries. This is called a “build once” policy.
Congress has determined it is the policy of the US to promote first time Internet access with foreign countries, and to support making this access easier through build once policies and other means.
The bill also requires a redesignation of an existing Assistant Secretary position in the State Department as “Assistant Secretary for Cyberspace.” This Secretary will promote the State Department’s cyberspace policy. The bill requires elimination of an Assistant Secretary position to replace with the Assistant Secretary of Cyberspace job, in order to offset the cost of creating the position.
The bill allows for incorporation of these policies with USAID and the Peace Corps, and also requires the President to submit a report to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Senate Committee on Foreign Relations 180 days after the enactment of the Act to discuss implementation efforts, discussion of the plans, and existing efforts to help attain the goals of the bill.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Republican – WA)
Eliot L. Engel (Democrat – NY)
Grace Meng (Democrat – NY)