Reading the previous paragraphs of this article, you might not have realized that the US government’s decision to give the Internet connection to Hong Kong free-of-charge is extremely controversial. That’s because the government is facing a $62 billion debt to the Hong Kong-based telecom company, to which the Internet is one of the major cost factors. In addition, the US federal government’s decision to allocate money for the free Internet access is seen as a political move rather than a humanitarian one by many in Hong Kong.
The US government wants to allocate $1 billion for Hong Kong’s government to provide free internet access. This free internet access will be provided to all residents of Hong Kong, regardless of whether they have a Hong Kong identity card or not.
Our last story covered the US Congress’s proposal made to allocate money to help free the internet in the world’s most densely populated city, Hong Kong. The bill came with an interesting proposal, which would give the funds to the Hong Kong Internet Exchange (HKIX) to build a free wifi hotspot. The project would use the funds to build a hotspot for all members of the public in the Central business district area, which is home to many international businesses and hotels.TECH NEWS – If the US Senate approves the bill (and it is signed by the president), the country will give $30 million to Hong Kong to help it overcome China’s Great Firewall. In a nutshell, this firewall blocks access to many sites (without resorting to tricks like VPNs) that run counter to the rhetoric of the Chinese Communist Party, including many of the sites most of us use (Google, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter). And Hong Kong is slowly but surely coming under Chinese control. Earlier this year, Hong Kong’s ISPs blocked access to two websites after US companies operating in the city refused to comply with requests from city authorities for user data. That’s why there is a new bill, called the United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA). It will provide $30 million from the next fiscal year to support the development of technology and software for an open, interoperable, reliable and secure internet for Hong Kong residents. We cite nine objectives of the bill to show what the plan is about: Make the Internet accessible in Hong Kong; expand the number of tools in the technology portfolio; promote the availability of these technologies and tools in Hong Kong; encourage the adoption of these technologies and tools by Hong Kong residents; expand the distribution of these technologies and tools throughout Hong Kong; prioritise the development of fully open source tools, components, codes and technologies where possible; investigate repressive tactics that undermine internet freedom in Hong Kong; ensure that oppressed people, human rights defenders, independent journalists, civil society organisations and marginalised groups in Hong Kong have access to digital security advice and support; and encourage the private sector in the US, including e-commerce and social media companies, to recognise the importance of maintaining internet access in Hong Kong, the bill says. For example, HK Chronicles was a closed site. The funds will be split between the State Department and the Open Technology Foundation (OTF; a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing internet censorship worldwide). If approved by the USICA, the Secretary will establish the Hong Kong Internet Freedom Program within the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. At the same time, the president of the OTF will run a program of the same name. Both will work independently of each other. OTF receives $5 million in each of FYs 2022 and 2023, while the State Department program is better funded ($10 million in each of the same years). The technologies that will be developed under these two programs will be evaluated to ensure that they do not ultimately pose a threat to the national security interests of the United States. Free internet is no laughing matter. Source: WCCFTech If there is one thing that can be said about the internet, it is that it is a fundamental part of our society and a source of our democracy. This has been proven numerous times, as groups with a single source of funding have been able to be dislodged by groups with large funds. But, what happens if that source of funding is cut, forcing the online community to fend for itself? This is the exact situation that millions of Hong Kongers are currently facing, with the internet being their sole source of information.. Read more about national endowment for democracy hong kong and let us know what you think.
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