A new bipartisan bill introduced this week by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., would allow the U.S. State Department and Department of Defense (DoD) to set up internet access to provide reliable connectivity in war zones.

The Safely Accessing Telecommunications (SAT) Act would authorize the agencies to enter into contracts with satellite cellular and internet providers to keep civil society, first responders, essential services, and the general public connected to the internet in conflict zones.

Sens. Cornyn and Klobuchar noted that satellite internet access does not require equipment to be connected to the larger national telecommunications infrastructure, preventing a targeted attack by advanced militaries such as Russia.

“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,” Sen. Cornyn said in a press release. “This legislation would ensure our allies can stay connected via American satellite providers, blunting cyberattack threats from countries like Russia.”

Specifically, the bill would authorize the agencies to provide humanitarian and military aid and “procure the end-point infrastructure necessary to service, such as satellite phones and receiver dishes.” Additionally, the agencies could enter into agreements with other nations to reimburse or offset the costs of the service.

The bill would also prohibit the agencies from forcing a service provider to provide the service, as well as providing the service longer than needed to address the conflict.

“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.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.