Cornyn, Klobuchar Introduce Bill Allowing U.S. to Provide Internet and Phone Service in Conflict Zones


In: All News   Posted 03/08/2022
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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) today introduced the Safely Accessing Telecommunications (SAT) Act, which would authorize the U.S. State Department and Department of Defense to enter into contracts with satellite cellular and internet providers to provide direct connectivity in conflict regions.

“Winning the war of public perception is a crucial part of armed conflict today, and as we’ve seen in Ukraine, the internet is the best way to gain support for your country’s cause globally,” said Sen. Cornyn. “This legislation would ensure our allies can stay connected via American satellite providers, blunting cyberattack threats from countries like Russia.”

“Unreliable Internet and telecommunications access is often used by aggressors like Russia to prevent people living in conflict zones from communicating with the outside world,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “This timely, bipartisan legislation will enable the U.S. government to collaborate with the private sector to help people living in conflict zones remain connected and protected against cyber-aggression.”

Background:

Keeping civil society, first responders, essential services, and the general population connected to the internet in conflict zones provides open source intelligence for U.S. use, but it also augments the capacity of allied governments to win the information war against aggressors. Satellite service does not require operational equipment to be connected to the larger national telecommunications infrastructure, which is likely to be targeted by advanced militaries like those of Russia.

The SAT Act would:

  • Authorize the Department of Defense to provide service for the purposes of providing military aid;
  • Authorize the State Department to provide service for the purpose of providing humanitarian aid;
  • Authorize both departments to procure the end-point infrastructure necessary to service, such as satellite phones and receiver dishes;
  • Allow these agencies to enter into agreements with other nations to offset the costs of the service, including reimbursements after the fact;
  • And prohibit an agency from compelling a service provider to provide the service and from providing the service longer than needed to address the conflict.

Agencies must consider the costs and benefits of providing the service and choose the services that provide the maximum benefit. They may not enter into contracts with entities on the Commerce Entity List, which prevents U.S. funds from going to adversary nations.