Cramer, Welch Lead Bipartisan Effort to Increase U.S. Telecommunications Access in Cuba
Washington – Congressman Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Congressman Peter Welch introduced H.R. 3055, the Cuba Digital and Telecommunications Advancement Act of 2015. This bipartisan legislation would allow U.S. telecommunications and Internet companies to expand their services to and sell their communications devices in Cuba. Cuba is one of the least wired and connected countries in the western hemisphere. The lack of a reliable and up-to-date telecommunication network prohibits the growth of the Cuban economy as well as the sharing of ideas and information. The lack of connectivity and reliable cellular service has cut off much of the island from the rest of the world. The Senate is considering S.1389 which is companion legislation to H.R. 3055. The Senate bill has been introduced by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Michael Enzi (R-WY).
“Cuba’s antiquated telecommunications infrastructure prevents American companies and farmers from effectively doing business in the country and creating jobs in ours. Not only would our telecommunications companies have the opportunity to upgrade Cuba’s infrastructure, but our farmers and entrepreneurs would be able to conduct business in Cuba utilizing 21st century communication methods. Increased foreign investment and the ability for Cuba’s oppressed citizens to communicate with the outside world, as well as within their country, will help spread liberty and democracy in Cuba. Improved trading opportunities in Cuba allows farmers in North Dakota and across the country to do what farmers do naturally - feed hungry people. Trade is central to America’s foreign policy. Cuba’s long road to democracy will be shortened by improved communication and trade with the United States,”
“U.S. engagement with Cuba is long overdue,” said Congressman Welch. “Our legislation will open the door to an important investment opportunity for American businesses, while providing Cuban citizens the opportunity to reap the benefits of Internet access, including e-commerce and social connectivity.”
In December 2014, Congressman Cramer expressed his support for President Obama’s move toward normalizing relations with Cuba. The Congressman was part of a group of five Representatives and Senators who helped launch the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, which includes more than 25 prominent U.S. food and agriculture companies and associations who seek to advance trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Members of the new coalition include the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Soybean Association, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, the National Association of Wheat Growers, the National Barley Growers Association, National Farmers Union, the U.S. Canola Association, USA Rice Federation, the National Sorghum Producers, and the U.S. Dry Bean Council.
On January 8, 2015, Congressman Cramer gave the keynote speech at the launch of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba. You can view Congressman Cramer’s speech at the event by clicking on the image below.
Congressman Cramer is currently cosponsoring H.R 664, the Freedom to Travel Act, which will allow freer travel between the U.S. and Cuba. Cuba is the only country where Americans travel is heavily restricted.
Congressman Welch traveled to Cuba in 2012 and 2014. He is a cosponsor of legislation to end U.S. trade restrictions with Cuba and the ban on travel to the island by U.S. citizens.
The legislation is supported by the Council of the Americas, the Center for Democracy in the Americas, the National Foreign Trade Council, #CubaNow, the Latin America Working Group, the Washington Office on Latin America and Engage Cuba.
Congressman Cramer and Congressman Welch both serve on the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
Summary of H.R. 3055, The Cuba Digital and Telecommunications Advancement (DATA) Act:
Permits exportation of consumer communications devises and telecommunications services to Cuba
- Codifies the regulatory changes made by President Obama to permit more telecommunications investment in Cuba
- Preventing a possible rollback of these policies in the future, and giving businesses which may invest in Cuba the assurances they need to maintain a long term commitment in Cuba.
- Supports and makes permanent the President’s policy of utilizing internet and telecommunications technology to engage with Cuba.
- Increased access to telecommunications will give the Cuban people the tools to improve their personal, business, and political communications…directly impacting progress to improve human rights.
Repeals outdated authorities preventing financing and market reform in Cuba
- This bill repeals key provisions in the Cuban Democracy Act and the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act which are preventing American businesses from investing in Cuba.
- Provisions which prevent financing, indirect financing, and assistance to Cuba from the United States and other countries.
- Repealing these provisions are vital to the empowerment of the Cuban people and the development of new businesses and market transition in Cuba.
- The section also repeals outdated provisions with regards to multilateral organizations such as the Organization of American States and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that are preventing multilateral investments and important diplomatic efforts in the region.
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