WASHINGTON, D.C. ― U.S. Senators Tom Udall, D-N.M., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Dick Durbin, D-Ill. and Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. introduced bipartisan legislation Tuesday that would enable U.S. telecommunications and Internet companies to provide their services and devices in Cuba.
Cuba is one of the least wired countries in the western hemisphere, leaving many Cubans unable to access the Internet for things like business development, political discourse and personal communications.
Smartphones also are unusable in Cuba, and the few Cubans who do have access to cellular technology are limited to voice and some text services. As the United States begins to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba, the world needs to be able to engage with Cubans, and encourage renewed connections through unfettered access to telecommunications technologies.
The Cuba Digital and Telecommunications Advancement Act—or Cuba DATA Act—will allow American companies to help Cuba build the 21st-century telecommunications infrastructure necessary in today’s global economy and empower Cubans to realize their full potential. The Cuba DATA Act provides the certainty that businesses and investors require to connect Cuba to the world by removing barriers for U.S. and international businesses looking to invest in Cuba, and helping open the door to further change.
“As we work to open up relations with Cuba, ensuring Cubans can access the Internet and cellular technology is the first step toward lasting change,” said Udall, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.“Americans are eager to do business with Cubans and share information efficiently, but Cuba lacks the 21st-century technology needed for companies operating in a global economy. The Cuba DATA Act opens up opportunities for American businesses while creating the tools needed to empower Cuban entrepreneurs, and permit increased dialogue between Cubans and the world. Access to the Internet will help improve the lives of everyday Cubans and enable them to connect with the best ambassadors for democratic change—the American people.”
“I am pleased to support legislation that will increase the Cuban people’s access to digital and telecommunications technology while allowing direct investment in Cuba by U.S. companies,” Flake said. “Just as we are seeking to bring U.S. policy into this century, this bill paves the way for the Cuban people to have more freedom by having the Cuban economy enter the digital age.”
“Lifting restrictions on telecommunications will open new markets for American businesses and new lines of communications between our two countries, as well as between the Cuban people themselves,” Durbin said.“Normalizing relations with Cuba is more than just good business—it will open this country just 90 miles off our coast to new ideas, new values, and improved human rights in a way that our 50 year old policy of isolation could not achieve. While we must be realistic about the prospects for Congressional action to fully lift the embargo on Cuba, when a single senator can scuttle it, the American people are ready for this change and my colleagues and I are committed to getting it done.”
“One of the best ways that the U.S. can support change in Cuba is by encouraging better and more open communication, and improvements in infrastructure will do that,” said Enzi. “Because Cuba is one of the least wired countries in the western hemisphere, this legislation will provide the opportunity and assurances needed to help cultivate telecommunication services that will deliver new perspectives and information to a people who have been severely limited, as well as opportunities for economic growth.”
The Cuba DATA Act has the support of Engage Cuba, the Latin America Working Group, #CubaNow, the National Foreign Trade Council, Center for Democracy in the Americas and the Council of the Americas.
The Cuba DATA Act will:
- Allow U.S. companies to export consumer communications devices and telecommunications services to Cuba.
- Codify the Obama administration’s policy of utilizing Internet and telecommunications technology to engage with Cubans.
- Encourage financing and market reform by repealing outdated policies that prevent American businesses from investing in Cuba, including provisions that prevent financing, indirect financing, and assistance to Cuba from the U.S. and other countries.
- Empower international organizations to work with Cuba by repealing outdated provisions that prevent multilateral organizations from investing in the country and engaging in important diplomatic efforts.