Text: H.R.600 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)All Information (Except Text)

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Referred in Senate (01/30/2017)


115th CONGRESS
1st Session
H. R. 600


IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

January 30, 2017

Received; read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations


AN ACT

To promote Internet access in developing countries and update foreign policy toward the Internet, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. Short title.

This Act may be cited as the “Digital Global Access Policy Act of 2017” or the “Digital GAP Act”.

SEC. 2. Purpose.

The purpose of this Act is to—

(1) encourage the efforts of developing countries to improve mobile and fixed access to the Internet in order to catalyze innovation, spur economic growth and job creation, improve health, education, and financial services, reduce poverty and gender inequality, mitigate disasters, promote democracy and good governance, and strengthen cybersecurity;

(2) promote build once policies and approaches and the multi-stakeholder approach to Internet governance; and

(3) ensure the effective use of United States foreign assistance resources toward this end.

SEC. 3. Findings.

Congress finds the following:

(1) The number of Internet users worldwide has more than tripled from 1 billion to 3.2 billion since 2005, yet the growth rate of Internet access is slowing. An estimated 4.2 billion people, or 60 percent of the world’s population, remain offline, an estimated 75 percent of the offline population lives in just 20 countries, and rural, female, elderly, illiterate, and low-income populations are being left behind.

(2) Studies suggest that women across the developing world are disproportionately affected by a digital gap, and that bringing an additional 600 million women online would contribute $13 billion to $18 billion to annual GDP across 144 developing countries.

(3) Internet access in developing countries is most often hampered by a lack of infrastructure and a poor regulatory environment for investment.

(4) Build once policies and approaches, which seek to coordinate public and private sector investments in roads and other critical infrastructure, can minimize the number and scale of excavation and construction activities when installing telecommunications infrastructure in rights-of-way, thereby reducing installation costs for high-speed Internet networks and serving as a development best practice.

SEC. 4. Statement of policy.

Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States to consult, partner, and coordinate with the governments of foreign countries, international organizations, regional economic communities, businesses, civil society, and other stakeholders in a concerted effort to close the digital gap by promoting—

(1) first-time Internet access to mobile or broadband Internet for at least 1.5 billion people in developing countries by 2020 in both urban and rural areas;

(2) Internet deployment and related coordination, capacity building, and build once policies and approaches in developing countries, including actions to encourage—

(A) standardization of build once policies and approaches for the inclusion of broadband conduit in rights-of-way projects that are funded, co-funded, or partially financed by the United States or any international organization that includes the United States as a member, in consultation with telecommunications providers, unless a cost-benefit analysis determines that the cost of such approach outweighs the benefits;

(B) adoption and integration of build once policies and approaches into the development and investment strategies of national and local government agencies of developing countries and donor governments and organizations that will enhance coordination with the private sector for road building, pipe laying, and other major infrastructure projects; and

(C) provision of increased financial support by international organizations, including through grants, loans, and technical assistance, to expand information and communications access and Internet connectivity;

(3) policy changes that encourage first-time affordable access to the Internet in developing countries, including actions to encourage—

(A) integration of universal and gender-equitable Internet access goals, to be informed by the collection of related gender disaggregated data, and Internet tools into national development plans and United States Government country-level development strategies;

(B) reforms of competition laws and spectrum allocation processes that may impede the ability of companies to provide Internet services; and

(C) efforts to improve procurement processes to help attract and incentivize investment in Internet infrastructure;

(4) the removal of tax and regulatory barriers to Internet access;

(5) the use of the Internet to increase economic growth and trade, including—

(A) policies and strategies to remove restrictions to e-commerce, cross-border information flows, and competitive marketplaces; and

(B) entrepreneurship and distance learning enabled by access to technology;

(6) use of the Internet to bolster democracy, government accountability, transparency, and human rights, including through the establishments of policies, initiatives, and investments that—

(A) support the development of national Internet plans that are consistent with United States human rights goals, including freedom of expression, religion, assembly, and association;

(B) expand online access to government information and services to enhance government accountability and service delivery, including for areas in which government may have limited presence;

(C) advance the principles of responsible Internet governance, including commitments to maintain open and equitable access; and

(D) support programs, research, and technologies that safeguard human rights and fundamental freedoms online, and enable political organizing and activism, free speech, and religious expression that are in compliance with international human rights standards;

(7) Internet access and inclusion into Internet policymaking for women, people with disabilities, minorities, low-income and marginalized groups, and underserved populations;

(8) cybersecurity and data protection, including international use of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, that are industry-led and globally recognized cybersecurity standards and best practices; and

(9) inter-agency coordination and cooperation across all executive branch agencies regarding the construction and promotion of Internet initiatives as a greater part of United States foreign policy.

SEC. 5. Leveraging international support.

In pursuing the policy described in section 4, the President should direct United States representatives to appropriate international bodies to use the influence of the United States, consistent with the broad development goals of the United States, to advocate that each such body—

(1) commit to increase efforts and coordination to promote affordable and gender-equitable Internet access, in partnership with stakeholders and consistent with host countries’ absorptive capacity;

(2) integrate affordable and gender-equitable Internet access data into existing economic and business assessments, evaluations, and indexes such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation constraints analysis, the Doing Business Report, International Monetary Fund Article IV assessments and country reports, the Open Data Barometer, and the Affordability Drivers Index;

(3) standardize inclusion of broadband conduit as part of highway or comparable construction projects in developing countries, in consultation with telecommunications providers, unless such inclusion would create an undue burden, is not necessary based on the availability of existing broadband infrastructure, or a cost-benefit analysis determines that the cost outweighs the benefits;

(4) provide technical assistance to the regulatory authorities in developing countries to remove unnecessary barriers to investment in otherwise commercially viable projects and strengthen weak regulations or develop new regulations to support market growth and development;

(5) utilize clear, accountable, and metric-based targets, including targets with gender-disaggregated data, to measure the effectiveness of efforts to promote Internet access; and

(6) promote and protect human rights online, such as the freedoms of expression, religion, assembly, and association, through resolutions, public statements, projects, and initiatives, and advocate that other member states of such bodies are held accountable when major violations are uncovered.

SEC. 6. Department of State organization.

(a) Sense of Congress.—It is the sense of Congress that the Secretary of State should seek to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of United States foreign assistance efforts to carry out the policies and objectives established by this Act, including by redesignating an existing Assistant Secretary position in the Department of State to be the Assistant Secretary for Cyberspace to lead the Department’s diplomatic cyberspace policy generally, including for cybersecurity, Internet access, Internet freedom, and to promote an open, secure, and reliable information and communications technology infrastructure.

(b) Activities.—In recognition of the added value of technical knowledge and expertise in the policymaking and diplomatic channels, the Secretary of State shall—

(1) update existing training programs relevant to policy discussions;

(2) promote the recruitment of candidates with technical expertise into the Civil Service and the Foreign Service; and

(3) work to improve inter-agency coordination and cooperation on cybersecurity and Internet initiatives.

(c) Offset.—To offset any costs incurred by the Department of State to carry out the designation of an Assistant Secretary for Cyberspace in accordance with subsection (a), the Secretary of State shall eliminate such positions within the Department of State, unless otherwise authorized or required by law, as the Secretary determines to be necessary to fully offset such costs.

(d) Rule of construction.—The redesignation of the Assistant Secretary position in the Department of State described in subsection (a) may not be construed as increasing the number of Assistant Secretary positions at the Department above the current level of 24 as authorized in section 1(c)(1) of the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 (22 U.S.C. 2651a(c)(1)).

SEC. 7. USAID.

It is the sense of Congress that the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development should—

(1) integrate efforts to expand Internet access, develop appropriate technologies, and enhance digital literacy into the education, development, and economic growth programs of the agency, where appropriate;

(2) expand the utilization of information and communications technologies in humanitarian aid and disaster relief responses and United States operations involving stabilization and security to improve donor coordination, reduce duplication and waste, capture and share lessons learned, and augment disaster preparedness and risk mitigation strategies; and

(3) establish and promote guidelines for the protection of personal information of individuals served by humanitarian, disaster, and development programs implemented directly through the United States Government, through contracts funded by the United States Government, and by international organizations.

SEC. 8. Peace Corps.

Section 3 of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2502) is amended by—

(1) redesignating subsection (h) as subsection (e); and

(2) adding at the end the following new subsections:

“(f) It is the sense of Congress that access to technology can transform agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health, and youth development which are the sectors in which Peace Corps currently develops positions for Volunteers.

“(g) In giving attention to the programs, projects, training, and other activities referred to in subsection (f), the Peace Corps should develop positions for Volunteers that are focused on leveraging technology for development, education, and social and economic mobility.”.

SEC. 9. Partnership framework.

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall transmit to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate plans to promote partnerships by United States development agencies, including the United States Agency for International Development and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and international agencies funded by the United States Government with the private sector and other stakeholders to expand affordable and gender equitable access to the Internet in developing countries, including the following elements:

(1) Methods for stakeholders to partner with such agencies in order to provide Internet access or Internet infrastructure in developing countries.

(2) Methods of outreach to stakeholders to explore partnership opportunities for expanding Internet access or Internet infrastructure, including coordination with the private sector, when financing roads and telecommunications infrastructure.

(3) Methods for early consultation with stakeholders concerning projects in telecommunications and road construction to provide Internet access or Internet infrastructure.

SEC. 10. Reporting requirement on implementation efforts.

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall transmit to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate a report on efforts to implement the policies specified in this Act and a discussion of the plans and existing efforts by the United States Government in developing countries to accomplish the following:

(1) Developing a technical and regulatory road map for promoting Internet access in developing countries and a path to implementing such road map.

(2) Identifying the regulatory barriers that may unduly impede Internet access, including regulation of wireline broadband deployment or the infrastructure to augment wireless broadband deployment.

(3) Strengthening and supporting development of regulations that incentivize market growth and sector development.

(4) Encouraging further public and private investment in Internet infrastructure, including broadband networks and services.

(5) Increasing gender-equitable Internet access and otherwise encourage or support Internet deployment, competition, and adoption.

(6) Improving the affordability of Internet access.

(7) Promoting technology and cybersecurity capacity building efforts and consult technical experts for advice regarding options to accelerate the advancement of Internet deployment, adoption, and usage.

(8) Promoting Internet freedom globally and include civil society and the private sector in the formulation of policies, projects, and advocacy efforts to protect human rights online.

(9) Promoting and strengthening the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance and actively participate in multi-stakeholder international fora, such as the Internet Governance Forum.

(10) Advancing a strategy to promote—

(A) global cybersecurity policy consistent with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity;

(B) global Internet freedom principles, such as the freedoms of expression, religion, assembly, and association, while combating efforts to impose restrictions on such freedoms; and

(C) improved inter-agency coordination and cooperation on cybersecurity and Internet initiatives.

SEC. 11. Definitions.

In this Act:

(1) BROADBAND.—The term “broadband” means an Internet Protocol-based transmission service that enables users to send and receive voice, video, data, graphics, or a combination thereof.

(2) BROADBAND CONDUIT.—The term “broadband conduit” means a conduit for fiber optic cables that support broadband or wireless facilities for broadband service.

(3) BUILD ONCE POLICIES AND APPROACHES.—The term “build once policies and approaches” means policies or practices that minimize the number and scale of excavation and construction activities when installing telecommunications infrastructure in rights-of-way.

(4) CYBERSPACE.—The term “cyberspace” means the interdependent network of information technology infrastructures, and includes the Internet, telecommunications networks, computer systems, and embedded processors and controllers in critical industries, and includes the virtual environment of information and interactions between people.

(5) STAKEHOLDERS.—The term “stakeholders” means the private sector, the public sector, cooperatives, civil society, the technical community that develops Internet technologies, standards, implementation, operations, and applications, and other groups that are working to increase Internet access or are impacted by the lack of Internet access in their communities.

Passed the House of Representatives January 24, 2017.

    Attest: karen l. haas,   
    Clerk.