Text: H.R.1359 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)All Information (Except Text)

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Referred in Senate (05/21/2019)

[Congressional Bills 116th Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
[H.R. 1359 Referred in Senate (RFS)]

  1st Session
                                H. R. 1359



                              May 21, 2019

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,


    This Act may be cited as the ``Digital Global Access Policy Act of 
2019'' or the ``Digital GAP Act''.


    The purpose of this Act is to--
            (1) encourage the efforts of developing countries to 
        improve and secure 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, and 
        promote free speech, democracy, and good governance;
            (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 that end.


    Congress makes the following findings:
            (1) Internet access has been a driver of economic activity 
        around the world. Bringing Internet access to the more than 
        4,000,000,000 people who do not have it could increase global 
        economic output by $6,700,000,000,000 and raise 500,000,000 
        people out of poverty.
            (2) The number of Internet users has more than tripled from 
        1,000,000,000 to over 3,000,000,000 since 2005, including 
        2,000,000,000 living in the developing world, yet more than 
        half of the world's population remains offline, living without 
        the economic and social benefits of the Internet. By the end of 
        2016, over 80 percent of households in the developed world had 
        Internet access, compared with just 40 percent of households in 
        developing countries and just 11 percent in the world's least 
        developed countries. Of the world's offline population, an 
        estimated 75 percent live in just 20 countries, and rural, 
        female, elderly, illiterate, and low-income populations are 
        being left behind.
            (3) Studies suggest that women are disproportionately 
        affected by a digital gap in developing countries, where there 
        are on average 23 percent fewer women online then men. Bringing 
        an additional 600,000,000 women online could contribute 
        $13,000,000,000 to $18,000,000,000 to annual GDP across 144 
        developing countries.
            (4) The United States has been a leader in promoting access 
        to an open, secure, interoperable Internet around the world. 
        Recognizing that support for expanded Internet access furthers 
        United States economic and foreign policy interests, including 
        efforts to end extreme global poverty and enabling resilient, 
        democratic societies, the Department of State launched a 
        diplomatic effort called ``Global Connect''.
            (5) Internet access in developing countries is hampered, in 
        part, by a lack of infrastructure and a poor regulatory 
        environment for investment. Build-once policies and approaches, 
        which seek to coordinate public and private sector investments 
        in roads and other critical infrastructure, can reduce 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.


    (a) Definitions.--In this section:
            (1) Appropriate congressional committees.--The term 
        ``appropriate congressional committees'' means--
                    (A) the Committee on Foreign Relations, the 
                Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and 
                the Committee on Appropriations of the Senate; and
                    (B) the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Committee 
                on Energy and Commerce, and the Committee on 
                Appropriations of the House of Representatives.
            (2) 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, using technologies including fiber optic, mobile, 
        satellite, and Wi-Fi.
            (3) Broadband conduit.--The term ``broadband conduit'' 
        means a conduit for fiber optic cables and other connectivity 
        technologies that support broadband or wireless facilities for 
        broadband service.
            (4) Build-once policies and approaches.--The term ``build-
        once policies and approaches'' means policies or practices that 
        encourage the integration of Internet infrastructure into 
        traditional infrastructure projects that minimize the number 
        and scale of excavation and construction activities when 
        installing telecommunications infrastructure in rights-of-way 
        to reduce costs, such as by laying fiber optic cable 
        simultaneously with road construction.
            (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 
    (b) Policy.--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 increasing public and private investments in secure 
Internet infrastructure and creating conditions for universal Internet 
access and usage worldwide by promoting--
            (1) first-time access to fixed or mobile broadband Internet 
        by 2027 for at least 1,500,000,000 people living in urban and 
        rural areas in developing countries;
            (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, major 
                infrastructure projects, and development-related 
                construction such as schools, clinics, and civic 
                    (C) provision of increased financial support by 
                international organizations, including through grants, 
                loans, technical assistance, and partnerships to expand 
                information and communications access and Internet 
                connectivity; and
                    (D) avoidance of vendors and contractors likely to 
                be subject to extrajudicial direction from a foreign 
            (3) policy and regulatory approaches that promote a 
        competitive market for investment and innovation in Internet 
        infrastructure and service to encourage first-time, affordable 
        access to the Internet in developing countries, including 
        actions to encourage, as appropriate--
                    (A) the integration of universal and gender-
                equitable Internet access and adoption goals, to be 
                informed by the collection of related gender 
                disaggregated data and research on social norms that 
                often limit women's and girls' use of the Internet, 
                into national development plans and United States 
                Government country-level strategies;
                    (B) effective, transparent, and efficient spectrum 
                allocation processes and reforms of competition laws 
                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 secure 
                Internet infrastructure;
            (4) the removal of tax and regulatory barriers to Internet 
        access, as appropriate;
            (5) the use of the Internet to increase economic growth and 
        trade, including, as appropriate--
                    (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) the use of the Internet to bolster democracy, 
        government accountability, transparency, gender equity, and 
        human rights, including through the establishment of policies, 
        initiatives, and investments that--
                    (A) support the development of national broadband 
                plans or information and communication technologies 
                strategies that are consistent with fundamental civil 
                and political rights, including freedom of expression, 
                religion, belief, 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; and
                    (C) support expression of free speech and enable 
                political organizing and activism in support of human 
                rights and democracy through activities that expand 
                access to independent sources of news and information 
                and safeguard human rights and fundamental freedoms 
                online, in compliance with international human rights 
            (7) programs and mechanisms that actively promote and 
        advance access to and adoption of Internet and other 
        information and communications technologies by women, people 
        with disabilities, minorities, low-income and marginalized 
        groups, and underserved populations, such as programs that 
        address social norms and barriers to women's active 
        participation in the digital economy or Internet policymaking;
            (8) mechanisms for public and private financing of rural 
        broadband connectivity and digital inclusion;
            (9) public Internet access facilities and Wi-Fi networks in 
        places such as libraries, government buildings, community 
        centers, and schools;
            (10) the creation and support of research and educational 
            (11) cybersecurity, data protection, and privacy, including 
        international use of the latest version of the National 
        Institute of Standards and Technology Framework for Improving 
        Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity; and
            (12) interagency coordination and cooperation across all 
        executive branch agencies regarding the promotion of Internet 
        initiatives as a part of United States foreign policy.
    (c) Department of State.--The Secretary of State, in coordination 
with other agencies, multilateral institutions, foreign countries, and 
stakeholders, shall advance the policy articulated in this Act and 
promote expanded Internet connectivity worldwide, as appropriate, by--
            (1) encouraging foreign countries to prioritize secure 
        Internet connectivity in development plans;
            (2) promoting the formation of region-specific multi-sector 
        working groups to ensure technical and regulatory best 
        practices; and
            (3) encouraging the development of digital literacy 
        programs in developing countries.
    (d) USAID.--The Administrator of the United States Agency for 
International Development (USAID) should advance the policy articulated 
in this Act and support expanded Internet connectivity worldwide, as 
appropriate, by--
            (1) supporting efforts to expand secure Internet 
        infrastructure and improve digital literacy, and other 
        appropriate measures to improve Internet connectivity and 
        usage, in close coordination with the Secretary of State;
            (2) encouraging public and private investment in Internet 
        infrastructure and services of developing countries that takes 
        into consideration the data security and integrity risks 
        attendant to the products and services of vendors likely to be 
        subject to extrajudicial direction from a foreign government;
            (3) integrating efforts to expand Internet access, develop 
        appropriate, sustainable, and equitable technologies, and 
        enhance digital literacy and the availability of relevant local 
        content across development sectors, such as USAID health, 
        education, agriculture, and economic development programs;
            (4) expanding the utilization of information and 
        communications technologies in humanitarian aid and disaster 
        relief responses and United States operations involving 
        reconstruction and stabilization to improve donor coordination, 
        reduce duplication and waste, capture and share lessons 
        learned, and augment disaster preparedness and risk mitigation 
            (5) establishing and promoting guidelines for the 
        protection of personal information of individuals served by 
        humanitarian, disaster, and development programs directly 
        through the United States Government, and through contracts 
        funded by the United States Government and by international 
        organizations; and
            (6) establishing programs that directly address and seek to 
        close gaps in access, adoption, and use of the Internet and 
        other information and communications technologies by women, 
        minorities, and other marginalized groups.
    (e) Peace Corps.--Section 3 of the Peace Corps Act (22 U.S.C. 2502) 
is amended--
            (1) by redesignating subsection (h) as subsection (e); and
            (2) by adding at the end the following:
    ``(f) It is the sense of Congress that access to the Internet can 
transform agriculture, community economic development, education, 
environment, health, and youth development, which are the sectors in 
which Peace Corps 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 include leveraging the Internet, 
as appropriate, for development, education, and social and economic 
    (f) Leveraging International Support.--In pursuing the policy 
described in this Act, 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, open, 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 reports, 
        International Monetary Fund Article IV assessments and country 
        reports, and the Affordability Drivers Index;
            (3) standardize the inclusion of broadband conduit as part 
        of highway or comparable construction projects in developing 
        countries, in consultation with telecommunications providers, 
                    (A) such inclusion would create an undue burden;
                    (B) such inclusion is not necessary based on the 
                availability of existing broadband infrastructure;
                    (C) such inclusion would require the incorporation 
                of the hardware, software, or maintenance of vendors 
                likely to be subject to extrajudicial direction from a 
                foreign government; or
                    (D) a cost-benefit analysis determines that the 
                cost of such inclusion outweighs the benefits;
            (4) provide technical assistance to the regulatory 
        authorities in developing countries to remove unnecessary 
        barriers to investment and develop 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, belief, assembly, and 
        association, through resolutions, public statements, projects, 
        and initiatives, and advocating that member states of such 
        bodies are held accountable for violations.
    (g) Reporting Requirement on Implementation Efforts.--Not later 
than 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President 
shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on 
efforts to implement the policy described in this Act and, to the 
extent practicable, describe efforts by the United States Government 
            (1) provide technical and regulatory assistance to promote 
        Internet access in developing countries;
            (2) strengthen and support development of regulations that 
        incentivize market growth that contributes to increased 
        Internet access in developing countries;
            (3) encourage public and private investment in Internet 
        infrastructure, including broadband networks and services, in 
        developing countries;
            (4) increase gender-equitable Internet access and close 
        gender gaps in Internet and other information and 
        communications technology adoption and use, especially in 
        countries in which social norms limit such adoption and use by 
        women and girls, and otherwise encourage or support Internet 
        deployment, competition, and adoption; and
            (5) conduct outreach and explore partnership opportunities 
        with the private sector on activities that advance the policy 
        described in this Act.


    No additional funds are authorized to be appropriated to carry out 
the provisions of this Act.


    Nothing in this Act may be construed to infringe upon the related 
functions of any Executive agency (as defined in section 105 of title 
5, United States Code) vested in such agency under any other provision 
of law.

            Passed the House of Representatives May 20, 2019.


                                             CHERYL L. JOHNSON,


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