Chairman Royce’s Digital Global Access Policy Act Passes House

Washington, D.C. – Today, the House overwhelmingly passed Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce’s (R-CA) Digital Global Access Policy Act (H.R. 600) to promote internet access in developing countries, which will in turn help reduce poverty, improve education, empower women, and advance U.S. interests.

On the House floor prior to the vote, Chairman Royce delivered the following remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“Today, more than 60% of the world’s population lacks access to the Internet. That means three billion people have been left out of the biggest technological revolution of our time. Three billion people are being denied the benefits of the free flow of information and game-changing innovations in health, education and commerce.  And three billion consumers remain out of the reach of American goods and services.

Women and girls are disproportionately affected by this “digital gap,” despite serving as the principal consumers, caregivers, educators, peacemakers, and income-earners across the developing world.  Bringing women online will not only deepen the benefit of existing investments in governance and global health, it will accelerate economic growth.

In fact, it is estimated that bringing 500 million women online could contribute up to $18 billion in GDP growth across 144 countries.  That is how you reduce poverty; that is how you advance U.S. interests.

This bill seeks to stimulate economic growth and advance U.S. interests by closing the “digital gap.”  It promotes efforts by developing countries to accelerate Internet deployment through the standardization of cost-effective “build-once” policies, partnerships with the private sector, and the creation of a favorable investment climate.

At the same time, it seeks to reduce duplication of effort among U.S. government agencies by demanding improved interagency coordination and collaboration with the private sector.  Additionally, it calls on the State Department to consolidate the responsibilities currently held by three separate coordinators for cyber policy, technology, and information under a single Assistant Secretary for Cyberspace.

Mr. Speaker, this bill advances commonsense solutions.  If the U.S. Agency for International Development is helping to finance the construction of a rural road in Ghana, the private sector should be invited to lay down broadband conduit before the concrete is poured.  Why dig the same road twice?

Moreover, advancing U.S. interests in cyber policy and internet governance requires greater unity of effort.  We cannot afford to have offices and agencies working at cross purposes.

Simply put, this bill is about smart economics and smart development.  It advances key U.S. values and interests.  And it is good for American industry.

I want to thank my co-sponsors – Representatives McMorris-Rodgers, Engel, and Meng – for their efforts on this bill and its predecessor, HR 5537, which passed the House with unanimous support last September.   I strongly urge Members to support the Digital GAP Act again this year so we can get it to the President’s desk without delay.”