Washington, D.C. – Today, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and the Committee’s Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced H.R. 5537, the Digital Global Access Policy Act of 2016.  House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) are original cosponsors of the bipartisan legislation, which urges the United States to promote internet access in developing countries in an effort to drive economic growth, improve health and education, promote democracy and reduce gender inequality.  The legislation builds upon the Foreign Affairs Committee’s recent gender and technology hearing.

Upon introduction, Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel issued this statement:  “The internet offers tremendous opportunities – for those that have access to it.  But 60% of the world’s population, largely concentrated in developing countries, remains offline.  Without internet access, the developing world is at risk of falling further behind.  We have introduced this bipartisan legislation so developing countries can take better advantage of the many opportunities internet access offers.”

Additionally, H.R. 5537 promotes:

  • first-time internet access for at least 1.5 billion people in developing countries by 2020;
  • the standardized inclusion of internet infrastructure in general infrastructure projects;
  • the removal of tax and regulatory barriers to internet access;
  • the use of the internet to increase economic growth and trade, such as through the removal of restrictions on e-commerce, cross-border information flows, and competitive marketplaces; and
  • the use of the internet to bolster democracy, transparency, and human rights, through policies and programs that uphold privacy and freedom of speech and expression online.

H.R. 5537 also expresses support for designating an Assistant Secretary at the State Department to address cyberspace policy and engage with foreign governments on issues like cybersecurity, internet freedom, internet access, and internet governance.

Note: A section-by-section summary of H.R. 5537, the Digital Global Access Policy Act of 2016, is available HERE.