Val Demings introduces bill to push internet freedom in Cuba

The bill would promote grants for technologies that open the internet in countries like Cuba that have censorship under authoritarian regimes.

Democratic Rep. Val Demings has introduced a bill to use more American dollars to promote internet access in authoritarian countries trying to censor the internet like Cuba and Venezuela.

Demings, the Orlando Congresswoman running for Senate against Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, said Friday she is joining Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Bill Keating in introducing the “Internet Freedom Rapid Response Act of 2022.” The measure (HR 8075) would make more money available to help bolster internet availability in countries under censorship.

The program would be run through the Open Technology Fund in the U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. That program provides grants for proven and emerging technology that allows people to bypass internet blocks in closed countries especially during crackdowns.

For more than a year since political crackdowns erupted anew in Cuba, lawmakers of both parties including Demings and Rubio have pushed for new efforts to disrupt the Cuban regime’s lockdown on outside information by surreptitiously getting internet service to the island.

“The technology funded under this initiative allows users cost-free access to social media and other messaging services, even during government-controlled internet blackouts,” Demings said in a news release.

“This is a concrete response against censorship technology which is being sold by Russia and the Chinese Communist Party to other autocrats. From Cuba to Venezuela, Belarus to Russia, this initiative will support ordinary people in their struggle for freedom.”

Demings serves on the House Intelligence Committee and Homeland Security Committee. She is Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. Keating is Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Energy, the Environment and Cyber.

Demings previously identified up to $2.5 million per year in unallocated appropriation for “surges” to internet freedom programs, and called on the Joe Biden administration to immediately implement grants to fund internet access programs in Cuba.

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