Massachusetts Senator Edward J. Markey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, introduced legislation to help expand quality and open access to the internet in the developing world, yesterday, March 2.
More than half of the world’s population remains offline, and developing countries remain far behind global connectivity averages.
As of 2016, more than 80 percent of households in the developed world had internet access, compared with just 41 percent of households in developing countries and just 11 percent of households in the world’s least developed countries.
Senator Markey’s “Driving Innovation and Growth in Internet Technology And Launching Universal Access to the Global Economy (DIGITAL AGE) Act” (S.449) calls for a comprehensive “whole-of-government” strategy from the U.S. government, expands U.S. government support for private sector investors, strengthens the State Department’s Global Connect Initiative, and affirms expanding internet access as a programmatic focus for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“American ingenuity created the internet and American investment should help bring its power to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries,” said Senator Markey. “Bridging the global digital divide can help promote prosperity, strengthen democracy, expand educational opportunity and provide better health for all. The DIGITAL AGE Act is a passport to the 21st century digital economy, linking the people of the developing world to the most successful communications and commerce tool in history. I look forward to working with my colleagues to bring the tremendous potential of the internet to the nations of the world who need it most.”
A copy of Senator Markey’s DIGITAL AGE Act can be found HERE.
Specifically, the DIGITAL AGE Act would direct the State Department, USAID and other relevant federal agencies to work with partner governments, international financial institutions, and the private sector to promote policies that:
- encourage a competitive market for investment and innovation in internet infrastructure and services;
- ensure effective, efficient, and transparent spectrum allocation;
- encourage internet infrastructure sharing;
- improve the affordability of internet access devices;
- promote the creation of public access facilities;
- encourage integration of internet backbone and other infrastructure into existing infrastructure projects supported by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and others, and;
- encourage companies to adopt flexible policies infrastructure sharing and spectrum re-use.