Maria Elvira Salazar, Michael Waltz Want to Ensure U.S. Can Offer Internet in Cuba, Iran

At the end of last month, U.S. Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., introduced a proposal which “implements ‘Operation Starfall’ – a strategic plan to provide access to wireless communications abroad and ensure we are ready when blackouts occur, disaster strikes, or when rogue regimes shut down internet access.”

Insisting the bill “is critical to protecting the safety and wellbeing of American citizens at home and abroad,” Salazar showcased the “American Freedom and Internet Access Act” last week. Supporters include Florida Republican U.S. Reps. Carlos Gimenez, Brian Mast, Bill Posey and Michael Waltz.

“The Biden administration refused to help the people of Cuba when they needed it the most, so Congress must act to ensure we have a clear strategy to deploy in a time of crisis,” Salazar said last week. “We cannot stand by when tyrants shut off the lights and when American security is at risk. With Operation Starfall, we can improve homeland security and be ready to restore internet, freedom, and prosperity to those in need.”

“The Biden administration failed when the Cuban people needed their solidarity the most as they took to the streets to oppose the country’s communist regime,” said Waltz. “Congress must now step up to fill the void in leadership from the White House and provide the people of Cuba and elsewhere in the world access to information and communication that their governments refuse to allow. Operation Starfall will help expose the grotesque human rights abuses happening in Cuba and other repressive regimes and provide a platform for those seeking freedom over oppression. Consider how even more tragic the withdrawal from Afghanistan would have been during a blackout and Americans had no method of communication.”

The congresswoman’s office offered some of the details behind Operation Starfall.

“Operation Starfall is a strategic plan to deploy stratospheric balloons, aerostats, or satellite technology capable of rapidly delivering wireless internet anywhere on the planet from high altitudes. With the use of emerging technologies that already exist in the private sector, it can be employed to create wireless internet networks covering a target geographic territory. At home, Operation Starfall would be deployable across the United States in the wake of floods, hurricanes, or wildfire devastation when local communications infrastructure is disabled,” Salazar’s office noted.

“Operation Starfall leverages U.S. innovation to empower citizens and strengthen democracy by exposing regimes that repress access to information and violate fundamental human rights. In the wake of the recent historic protests in Cuba, the brutal communist regime shut off all access to the internet on the island while it tortured and jailed peaceful pro-democracy protestors. Likewise, in 2019, the Iranian regime did the same when the Iranian people bravely took to the streets to demand their freedom,” the congresswoman’s office added.

Salazar rounded up a dozen co-sponsors, all from the Republican minority. The bill was sent to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.

KEVIN DERBY
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