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- As Delivered -

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today delivered the following remarks in the House of Representatives in support of the Digital GAP Act (H.R. 600):

“Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this bill and I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

“I want to thank our Chairman, Ed Royce. And I’m pleased to cosponsor this bill that he’s introduced to make it easier for people around the world to harness the power of the Internet. This bill passed in the last Congress, but didn’t make it through the Senate.  So I’m glad we’re taking it up again.

“Mr. Speaker, we know the way this incredible tool has shaped the world in the last generation. The Internet can instantaneously connect people across the world from each other, who a few years ago would never have crossed paths in a lifetime. 

“It allows citizens and journalists living under oppressive regimes or in warzones to get information out to the world. It allows entrepreneurs in emerging markets to sell their products in global markets.

“To be sure, the power of the Internet can cut both ways. ISIS has proved all too adept at using social media to recruit fighters and spread its hateful message. But put to its highest purpose, the Internet can help drive economic growth and spread stability and prosperity.

“Unfortunately, too few people around the world have access to this tool. Roughly 60 percent of the world’s population is not online, and the growth rate of Internet access is slowing. If you live in a poor community or a rural area, sometimes just because you’re a woman, it’s harder to take advantage of the Internet.

“We know where that lack of access is holding populations back. Three quarters of those who are offline live in just 20 countries. If we could close that gap, think of what it might mean for all of those people struggling to make ends meet.

“And that’s exactly what this bill aims to do.

“Chairman Royce’s legislation calls on the Administration to ramp up efforts around the world to expand access to the Internet. It encourages the State Department, USAID, and the Peace Corps to focus on Internet access as a diplomatic and development priority. And it states clearly that expanding Internet access—especially in the developing world—is an American foreign policy priority.

“So I’m glad to support this measure. I thank the Chairman for all his hard work. And I reserve the balance of my time.”