Blog Archive 2009


November 25, 2009

HTTP Statement Regarding Congressional Hearing on Arbitron’s Portable People Meter (PPM)

The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) welcomes the announcement that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing to explore the negative impact that Arbitron’s Portable People Meter has had on minority radio.

Minority radio does more than add flavor and spice to the soundtrack of American life.  It is the conduit by which businesses connect with emerging markets and communities strengthen linkages with each other.  Arbitron’s PPM system is harming a critical medium that has played a transformative role in the social, political, and economic development of communities of color.

HTTP calls on Arbitron to use this hearing as an opportunity to correct its flawed PPM methodology and begin engaging in responsible business practices.

For more information please see

The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) is a coalition of national Hispanic organizations that works to increase awareness of the impact of technology and telecommunications policy on the U.S. Hispanic community.

October 23, 2009

NAACP and HTTP Call for Public Knowledge to Repudiate Offensive Statements Regarding Minority Organizations

Today, Hilary Shelton, Director, Washington Bureau & Vice President for Advocacy, of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Sylvia Aguilera, Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP), delivered a letter to Gigi Sohn, President and Co-founder of Public Knowledge.

The minority advocacy organizations issued the joint letter to express their indignation at offensive statements made in a recent blog by Art Brodsky, PK’s Director of Communications, regarding minority organizations that have weighed in opposition to Public Knowledge in the current debate regarding network neutrality.

Full Text of the Letter

October 23, 2009

Gigi Sohn

President and Co-Founder

Public Knowledge

1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 650

Washington, DC 20009

Dear Ms. Sohn:

On behalf of the members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the members of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP), we want to express our deep indignation over the offensive assertions made in a recent Public Knowledge blog by Art Brodsky, PK Director of Communications, and our concerns about the manifestation of increasingly uncivil and disrespectful discourse around the issue of network neutrality.

In particular, we take genuine exception to the manner in which the author dismisses minorities’ opinions as naively misinformed. He wrote:

“Perhaps the saddest part of the whole affair to date is the role of groups representing minority populations. For whatever reason – whether they believe what the Big Telecom companies tell them or not – many organizations seem to land on policies that hurt their constituencies and fall into ludicrous traps one suspects are not of their making.” -excerpt: Big Telecom Foments Hill’s Net Neutrality Hysteria 10/18/09

To make the blanket assertion that minority groups “fall into ludicrous traps” when taking positions on policy is to claim that minorities, and the groups they form to advocate on their behalf, are incapable of intelligently participating in sophisticated debates. Such statements are irresponsible, prejudiced and lack qualification.

To further suggest that the concerns of minority civil rights organizations are being directed to influence the only minority sitting on the FCC is indeed ludicrous. It is categorically unacceptable to claim that minority advocacy groups are colluding with certain interests to exploit the ethnic self-identification of government officials who happen to be minorities in leadership positions at the FCC.

Implying that minorities are easily duped and uninformed is astoundingly offensive. But to accuse the nation’s most respected and accomplished minority advocacy groups of consciously disregarding the interests of their constituents in order to abet the manipulation of minority officials is beyond insulting. The minority organizations to which Mr. Brodsky refers are groups which have a long legacy of dedicated efforts to advancing the cause of disadvantaged minorities in the United States. They are groups that were created by, led by, and staffed by, the very minorities the article accuses them of injuring. They are groups that have worked diligently to ensure that people of color are able to pursue their aspirations without discrimination.

The suggestion that minority organizations that oppose your position don’t do their own thinking, don’t have genuine concerns, or don’t have their constituents’ interests at heart is deeply offensive to us; therefore, we demand that you stop these attacks immediately, and repudiate them.

As advocates and leaders, we have a moral and ethical responsibility to ensure that the way we work, and the way we speak about colleagues who may not share our opinions, honors the legacy of the leaders who came before us and creates a righteous path for leaders of the future. We hope that you will join us in supporting a positive environment in which civil discourse regarding policy issues that affect our communities can take place.


Hilary O. Shelton

Director, NAACP Washington Bureau

Vice President for Advocacy

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Sylvia Aguilera

Executive Director

Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership

More Information

letter gigi sohn Final

October 19, 2009

Minority Voices on Net Neutrality

When 20 organizations representing the communities most impacted by the Digital Divide issued a joint letter to the FCC last week, they added a new and much-needed element to discussions about net neutrality.

In recent weeks, legislators, ISPs, online application providers, mainstream advocates and ivory-tower digirati have fueled and shaped well-funded discussions about net neutrality into a din of vociferous rhetoric.

In the midst of these discussions, that have all but ignored the perspectives of the disenfranchised, minority groups have remained focused on their number one priority, eliminating the digital divide so that all Americans can have access to the benefits of broadband connectivity.

In their letter, these civil rights and advocacy organizations, including the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership, urged the FCC to consider the impact of Internet regulations on populations that are unserved and underserved by broadband technologies.

The signers of this letter are the nation’s preeminent minority civil rights and advocacy organizations. It is time that policymakers incorporate our perspectives and expertise as they shape Internet policy.

In our evolving, diverse society, we can no longer let the digital elite dominate discussions that will shape the future of our Internet.

HTTP thanks its co-signers and supporters in this effort, who are working together to ensure that the Internet will be a place for ALL of us.

100 Black Men of America

Asian American Justice Center

Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies


Black College Communications Association

Dominican American National Roundtable

Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership

Japanese American Citizens League

Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association

Labor Council on Latin American Advancement

Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc.

League of United Latin American Citizens

MANA: A National Latina Organization

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

National Association of Neighborhoods

National Coalition of Black Civic Participation

National Disability Institute

National Puerto Rican Coalition

The Hispanic Institute

US Hispanic Leadership Institute

A copy of the letter is available at…

October 9, 2009

Guest Blog from HTTP Member, The Hispanic Institute

Guest blogger, Gus West, from the Hispanic Institute, stresses the importance of mobile broadband to the Latino community.

One key demographic that has been underrepresented in policy debates regarding the Digital Divide is the Hispanic population. The fact that Hispanics are now the largest minority population in the US and also among the most digitally underserved means that our community’s needs and perspectives must be taken into account as the FCC develops the National Broadband Plan for America.

Despite a large proportion of Hispanics coming from lower income backgrounds, we have an incredible propensity for using new and available technologies. Of those Hispanics with Internet access, we consume mobile broadband at 53% clip, trailing only the African American usage rate of 58%. The social and economic benefits derived from using these technologies are well-known — Health IT, educational access, and workforce development. Innovation and growth in technology will enable widespread economic recovery for all sectors, but will have a particularly significant positive impact on the most vulnerable populations in our country.

The fact that our community uses mobile broadband at comparatively high rates does not mean that we should rest in our efforts to close the Digital Divide. Many in our community lack access to broadband in the home, a necessary resource in today’s society. If access to IT is limited or if investment in deployment or adoption is stifled, our community, which lags behind others by several socio-economic measures, will find it more difficult to make progress. The growing Hispanic population demands increased connectivity. We must continue to encourage investment in new technologies and telecommunications services. Policies that foster growth and incentivize partnerships on both a public and private level will help develop an environment that allows mobile broadband to spread and flourish.

At The Hispanic Institute, we have been studying the issue very closely. We recently released a white paper on Hispanic Broadband access that further details the importance of technology and the place of Hispanics in the telecommunications landscape. The study can be viewed at

September 30, 2009

Latino Organizations Join Broadband for America Coalition

Six Hispanic nonprofit organizations, among them several HTTP members, have joined the Broadband for America Coalition. The coalition, which was announced last week, will educate policymakers and stakeholders about how the Internet and wireless networks work; drive policy discussions about how to achieve broadband everywhere and will work with the President, the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Congress to develop and promote policies that maximize broadband access and adoption.

A diverse array of constituencies, policy perspectives, and philosophies are represented within the coalition’s 100+ membership. The fact that the coalition was able to attract organizations with such a diverse range of priorities demonstrates that, in today’s world, broadband deployment and adoption is an issue of universal importance. Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership members that have joined the coalition to date include:

Latinos in Information Science and Technology Association

MANA, A National Latina Organization

National Puerto Rican Coalition

U.S. Mexico Chamber of Commerce

The Broadband for America coalition welcomes additional members. For more information about the coalition, please visit

September 23, 2009

Congressional Committee Finds that Arbitron PPM Underrepresents Latino and African American Audiences

Today, Chairman Ed Towns of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announced a summary of findings from the Committee’s review of information subpoenaed from the Media Ratings Council regarding Arbitron’s Portable People Meter. The PPM is a device that was developed by Arbitron to measure radio station listenership.

Chairman Towns opened an investigation into Arbitron’s use of the PPM in June 2009 amid allegations that the system is based on flawed methodology. The ratings system underrepresents radio listening preferences of minorities and certain age groups. The erroneous ratings have had a disproportionately negative impact on minority and minority-owned radio stations, which have experienced a precipitous drop in advertising revenue.

Flawed Radio Audience Measurement System Threatens Minority Media

Key findings:

•On multiple occasions, the Media Ratings Council (MRC) refused to grant accreditation to PPM for use in all markets across the United States except for Houston and Riverside/San Bernardino. MRC denied Arbitron accreditation because of the company’s continual failure meet MRC minimum accreditation standards.

•“Persistent problems” with Arbitron’s minority sample audiences across the country. For example, New York City 2008 census data indicates African Americans comprised 25 percent and Hispanics comprised 27 percent of the City’s population. The subpoenaed documents show that Arbitron’s New York City sample audiences comprised of only 17.7 percent African-American and 21.5 percent Hispanic participants.

•Arbitron’s PPM radio ratings based on data from an unacceptably low percentage of their sample audiences. For example, in New York, where there is an average of 5400 sample audience participants, Arbitron uses only the data submitted by 2700 persons or 50% of the sample audience in order to create radio station ratings. Therefore, the radio listening habits of over four million ethnic minorities are represented by only 500 Arbitron recruits. The sample audiences are simply an inadequate representation of the true listening habits of New York’s diverse landscape.

•MRC found that Arbitron has made an insufficient effort to use bilingual interviews to recruit Spanish dominant Hispanic sample participants.

Chairman Towns directed Committee investigators to meet with Arbitron’s representatives in early July 2009 after he received many complaints from minority broadcasters about the accuracy PPM data. Although Arbitron promised full cooperation with the investigation, the company immediately prohibited MRC from providing the Committee with any documents related to the PPM. Shortly thereafter, Arbitron provided the Committee with insufficient documents that were either publicly available or biased toward the company. Chairman Towns then chose to issue a subpoena to MRC for the PPM documents.

The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) thanks Chairman Towns and supports his efforts to ensure that media ratings systems present an accurate picture of minority and Spanish-language radio listenership.

September 21, 2009

Dr. Alicia Abella Honored for Developing Innovative Green Technologies

Last week’s Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) conference had to have been the best event that CHCI has ever held. As if a visit by President Obama and the First Lady was not enough, luminaries such as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, numerous Hispanic legislators, renowned journalists Soledad O’Brien and Maria Hinojosa, and stars such as Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez attended the gala to support CHCI’s educational initiatives.

The CHCI conference was an unprecedented demonstration that the Latino community is developing its own powerful presence among policymakers. Latinos and Latinas are also increasingly emerging as leaders in science and technology, a domain in which Latinos and other people of color have been traditionally underrepresented. CHCI honored one such Latina last week for her contributions in the area of green technology. Dr. Alicia Abella is Executive Director of AT&T’s Human Computer Interface Services Research Department, where she leads the development of technological innovations that help people collaborate at a distance and over time.

Dr. Abella received her Ph.D. and MS from Columbia University. She graduated from NYU with an undergraduate degree in computer science. In 2008 she became a member of the elite group of AT&T Science and Technology Medal award winners. She was also a recipient of the 2008 Hispanic Engineers National Achievement Award for Outstanding Technical Achievement.

Dr. Abella not only excels in her field, she is committed to developing the careers of women and minority researchers. She serves as Vice President of the Young Science Achievers Program and chair of the AT&T Labs Fellowship Committee.

Congratulations, Dr. Alicia Abella, for your accomplishments.

September 15, 2009

Hispanic Institute Analyzes Hispanic Mobile Broadband Use and Implications for Closing the Digital Divide

The Hispanic Institute (THI) released a white paper today at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Conference in Washington, D.C. Hispanic Broadband Access: Making the Most of a Mobile, Connected Future reports on an important telecommunications trend that has exciting implications for closing the Hispanic Digital Divide. While overall, the percentage of Hispanics that have access to broadband in the home is among the lowest of all demographic groups, some segments of the Hispanic population are among the most active users of mobile broadband technologies, even when compared to non-Hispanic populations.

We applaud The Hispanic Institute and MobileFuture for presenting a responsible and balanced view of Hispanic technology use. While other studies have used the fact that Hispanics over-index in the use of mobile broadband technologies as ‘proof’ that the Digital Divide is closing, THI and MobileFuture acknowledge that there is still a pressing need to address lower access and adoption rates of home-based broadband by Hispanics. The study examines the factors that drive higher rates of Hispanic mobile technology use, including the prevalence of cellular devices in immigrants’ countries of origin, Hispanic cell phone ownership rates and usage patterns in the U.S., and the population’s geographic mobility trends.

Hispanic Broadband Access emphasizes the importance of developing policies that encourage affordability, innovation and continued growth of the mobile technology sector. Under policies that allow for these three critical elements to flourish, mobile technologies will continue to stimulate adoption of broadband technologies – mobile and tethered – by unserved and underserved populations. This is particularly important because of the critical role that broadband Internet access can play in addressing the most pressing health, education, and economic concerns of our nation’s vulnerable populations. The fact that so many Hispanics have adopted mobile broadband technologies, combined with increasingly affordable mobile devices and usage plans, provides opportunities for even more Hispanics to experience how the Internet can be relevant – even indispensable – to their lives.

Information about The Hispanic Institute is available at the organization’s website,

Visit to view a video about the report and download copies of the paper in English and Spanish.

September 11, 2009

Online Database Contains Valuable Information for Future BTOP / BIP Applicants

The National Telecommunications Infrastructure Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) expanded the functionality of their portal with a searchable database of Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) and Broadband Infrastructure Program (BIP) applications. The public can use the database to find out which organizations submitted proposals in the first funding round, read brief overviews of the proposed projects, and learn how much funding is being requested for program implementation. Organizations who are considering applying for future rounds of BTOP / BIP funding will find this database invaluable as they develop their proposal strategies.

BTOP will provide grants to fund broadband infrastructure, public computer centers and sustainable broadband adoption projects. BIP will make loans and grants to support broadband infrastructure development in rural areas. is the online repository of information about economic stimulus efforts that will expand broadband access to unserved and underserved communities across the U.S., increase jobs, spur investments in technology and infrastructure, and provide long-term economic benefits.

The site contains information about funding opportunities for organizations working to expand broadband access in unserved and underserved communities.


HTTP members and other nonprofit organizations may use this blog entry in newsletters and member communications with proper credit to the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnerhsip and reference to HTTP’s website,

July 23, 2009

Wireless Technology Helps Close Digital Divide for Hispanics

On July 22, BusinessWeek posted an article citing a recent Pew Internet & American Life Project study that describes how wireless connections are helping to narrow the Digital Divide. The study reinforces one of our recent blogs on the state of competition in the wireless industry. The data points to a thriving market that is benefiting consumers, particularly Hispanics and African Americans.

The findings support what we have observed; many Americans on the wrong side of the Digital Divide are “leapfrogging” over wireline technology and instead using wireless devices to access the Internet. Wireless technology is enabling many Americans to access the Internet for the first time and, for many, has been a a work-around to the obstacle of affording personal computing equipment in the home.

Pew found that English-speaking Hispanics and African Americans use their mobile devices to access the Internet far more than average. 47% of Hispanics and 48% of African Americans have used the Internet from a mobile device, compared to an average of 32% among all adults nationwide. The study also shows that English-speaking Hispanics are the heaviest users of “wireless on-ramps” to the Internet.

Make no mistake, the Digital Divide persists. In fact, with regard to African Americans, Pew notes that “to an extent notably greater than that for whites, wireless access for African Americans serves as a substitute for a missing on-ramp to the internet – the home broadband connection.”

This statement underscores the importance of the wireless platform for those without traditional wireline Internet access. We are grateful for the affordable and flexible on-ramp that wireless technologies provide for those without alternative means of Internet access. Because wireless is the only type of access that many Hispanics and African Americans have, we would be concerned with policy decisions that could create roadblocks on our wireless on-ramp to the Internet.

July 21, 2009

Hispanic Leaders Ask FCC to Prioritize Full Broadband Deployment

On July 21, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) submitted reply comments to the FCC on the creation of a National Broadband Plan. In our filing, we reiterated the importance of expanding broadband deployment and adoption to all Americans. We urged the FCC to focus on 100% broadband and efforts to promote broadband adoption before addressing other concerns that could take away from these objectives.

As we mentioned in our filing, the creation of a National Broadband Plan presents the FCC with an important opportunity to help alleviate the Digital Divide. There are great disparities in broadband adoption among low-income and non-English speaking Americans. This Plan marks a critical juncture to correct these disparities.

We are committed to working with the FCC as they develop a National Broadband Plan and we will be paying close attention to the Commission’s progress in the coming months. Please see our full comments here.

July 16, 2009

Senate Antitrust Subcommittee Questions Wireless Competition

Earlier this month, Senator Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee sent a letter to the FCC and the Department of Justice sharing his concerns about lack of competition in the wireless market.  His letter covered a number of important issues affecting Latino consumers including roaming requirements, text messaging fees and early termination fees. The letter states that he is concerned about “emerging barriers to competition”.  From a consumer and advocacy perspective we are also concerned about barriers to a speedy economic recovery.

In our view, consumers have benefited from current wireless marketplace dynamics. Americans, particularly Hispanics, have continued to enthusiastically embrace innovative new wireless devices, despite the economic downturn.  Because of this we would be concerned about calling for federal actions that would stifle one of the few vibrant sectors of our economy – the wireless industry.

Wireless devices have become a gateway through which members of our community take their first steps into a world enhanced by Internet access.  I have seen, in our community and even in my own family, how handheld devices have motivated families to adopt broadband at home. We have a lot of work to do in closing the digital divide, so we must be cautious about policymaking that threatens affordable access to innovative devices that introduce people to the benefits of Internet access.

For this reason, HTTP will hold a member briefing in the coming weeks to explore the facts behind the issues raised by the Senator’s letter. More details to come.

July 16, 2009

Senate Judiciary Subcommittee Chair Questions State of Wireless Competition

Earlier this month, Senator Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee sent a letter to the FCC and the Department of Justice sharing his concerns about lack of competition in the wireless market. His letter covered a number of important issues affecting Latino consumers including roaming requirements, text messaging fees and early termination fees. The letter states that he is concerned about “emerging barriers to competition”. From a consumer and advocacy perspective we are concerned about barriers to a speedy economic recovery.

In our view, consumers have benefited from current wireless marketplace dynamics. Americans, particularly Hispanics, have continued to enthusiastically embrace innovative new wireless devices, despite the economic downturn. Because of this we would be concerned about calling for federal actions that would stifle one of the few vibrant sectors of our economy – the wireless industry.

Wireless devices have become a gateway through which members of our community take their first steps into a world enhanced by Internet access. I have seen, in our community and even in my own family, how handheld devices have motivated families to adopt broadband at home. We have a lot of work to do in closing the digital divide, so we must be cautious about policymaking that threatens affordable access to innovative devices that introduce people to the benefits of Internet access.

For this reason, HTTP will hold a member briefing in the coming weeks to explore the facts behind the issues raised by the Senator’s letter. More details to come.

July 8, 2009

Federal Funding Will Help Expand Broadband to Unserved and Underserved Communities: Free Webcast!

The Federal government has released a Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) for the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP) and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  Nonprofit organizations are eligible for funding and encouraged to apply. Proposals are due August 14, 2009.


The National League of Cities is holding a free webcast on Thursday, July 9 at 2pm to educate prospective grant applicants about the process and requirements of the NOFA.  Register using this link: Live Webcast


Organizations have been preparing for months to apply for this funding, but it is not too late to develop a concept for submission. The NOFA can be downloaded at

June 10, 2009

Hispanic Leaders Weigh In on a National Plan for Broadband

In comments filed with the Federal Communications Commission this week, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) applauded the Commission for addressing a national plan for broadband. Our members, who work in communities across the U.S., know that there is a critical relationship between access to broadband and improved social, educational, and economic opportunities in Hispanic communities.

In our filing, we noted that several Hispanic Telecommunications and Technology Partnership members operate Community Technology Centers that offer broadband access to those who may not have it in their homes.  They have done an excellent job of bringing technology resources to communities on the wrong side of the Digital Divide, but we have a lot of work left to do. Hispanics, especially low income Hispanics, lag behind other populations in access to broadband.

HTTP is committed to working with the FCC as it develops its national plan for broadband.  We look forward to a national broadband plan that addresses the fundamental questions of how we can raise broadband adoption rates and make sure that everyone in this country – particularly previously underserved communities – have access to this indispensable tool.

HTTP’s comments are available at:

The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) is a coalition of national and regional Hispanic organizations working to increase awareness of the impact of technology and telecommunications policy on the U.S. Hispanic community.

April 15, 2009

Broadband Grants Will Help Close Digital Divide

We’d like to thank the Internet Innovation Alliance for hosting an informative discussion about the broadband provisions contained in the Recovery Act this morning. Recovery Act broadband stimulus funds will help nonprofit organizations, state governments and other eligible entities to eliminate the digital divide in Latino and other unserved and underserved communities.

The legislation allocates $7.2 billion for broadband stimulus activities. The funds will be managed and disbursed by the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utility Service (RUS) of the USDA. Of the $7.2 billion, $4.7 billion will be awarded in the form of grants by the NTIA. The RUS will oversee $2.5 billion in grants and loans. All funding must be awarded by September 2010.

Broadband stimulus funding will address both demand and supply-side barriers to broadband access and use. The NTIA funds will be used for the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to “develop and expand broadband services to unserved and underserved areas” and for “innovative programs that encourage sustainable adoption of broadband services”. The RUS appropriation will support broadband network construction with priority given to rural projects and projects in unserved areas.

IIA Chair and former NTIA administrator Larry Irving noted that 5% of Americans have no broadband access available to them, while 45% do not subscribe to broadband even though access is an option. While income, education, and acculturation levels affect broadband adoption, Irving maintains that many who choose not to have broadband do so because they “do not see the value” of the service, not because the service is financially out of reach. He encouraged nonprofit organizations, particularly those who work in digitally unserved and underserved communities to apply for the program to address these and other issues which affect broadband adoption. Nonprofit organizations have the expertise to develop and implement digital literacy programs that will resonate with their communities.

For more information about the Internet Innovation Alliance and broadband stimulus funding, visit Federal information about the program is available at

January 9, 2009

Latino Broadband Demand and the Digital Divide

In HTTP’s most recent blog, we wrote about the need to ensure that policy-makers support broadband deployment as part of a larger economic stimulus and recovery package. We noted that incentives for corporate investment in broadband deployment would be an indispensable part of any effective plan to stimulate economic growth. Taking broadband to communities that are currently not served would go a long way in bridging the distance between those who have and those who do not have access to high-speed Internet service.

Unfortunately, expanding access to high-speed Internet connections does not mean that all households will adopt the technology. Currently, there are many low-to-moderate income households that have access to high-speed connections, but choose not to connect. As recently reported by the organization Free Press, only 35% of households with annual incomes below $50,000 have broadband service.

High-speed Internet access is essential to modern life. This is a fact that is taken for granted in communities where home Internet use is nearly universal. Internet use has become part of the mainstream culture, and impacts the way we learn, communicate and conduct business. Lack of service to certain geographic regions in the U.S does not entirely explain why some populations lag behind others in adopting broadband. In many Latino and urban communities, broadband is available, but it is still not adopted at rates comparable to other areas.

Although affordability is the most obvious barrier to broadband adoption, there are other reasons why households choose not to connect to broadband service. Many Latinos cannot afford computers despite falling prices. Segments of the population, particularly older Latinos, have not been exposed to the usefulness of computers and the Internet. Parents may feel that their children’s Internet access at school and in public libraries is enough to help them stay at the same levels as their peers.

The present economic turmoil is affecting everyone, but the impact on minority and low-income communities is more severe. Because many Latino and low-income families are now focusing on just getting by, there is a very real danger that they will fall further behind mainstream populations in home computer use and Internet access – further widening the Digital Divide.

Broadband facilitates access to the very services and programs that can help our communities advance socially, economically and politically. Therefore community organizations, government, and the private sector should engage in stronger collaborative efforts to ensure that under-served communities will experience increases in Internet access and use. This is especially important because the Internet can help connect families to job opportunities and information about programs and services that may be essential during difficult economic circumstances.

Organizations such as One Economy have recognized the critical importance of bringing high-speed Internet connections into low-income, urban households. Business Week highlighted One Economy’s work in an article, “Bringing Broadband to the Urban Poor”, on December 31. Their programs, which facilitate Internet service through funding mechanisms similar to those used in nonprofit housing development, are based on the belief that home Internet access is an essential utility.

Latino organizations should also focus on how ‘demand’impacts the Digital Divide. We must raise awareness about the benefits of home computing and develop culturally-attuned programs to de-mystify the Internet, address concerns about privacy and safety, and make computing less intimidating. These efforts must encompass a variety of approaches including educating government, industry, and other charitable organizations serving the Latino community about specific barriers to Internet use among Latinos.

A truly comprehensive effort to establish universal broadband access must address both supply (deployment) and education to foster broadband connections. In this challenging economic climate, in which our community is being hardest hit, we cannot afford to let Latinos fall further behind in adoption of high-speed Internet service.

Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership blog — January 9, 2009

January 4, 2009

Broadband is Essential to Economic Recovery

An article in Wall Street Journal, “Internet Providers Move to Shape Broadband Push”, describes what provisions telcos and cable companies are seeking as bill-drafters develop the broadband portion of the U.S. economic stimulus package.

The Congressional bailout of the financial industry has created anger and resentment in the general public, who is justifiably shaken by the economic crisis. Public opinion is having an impact on the development of the economic stimulus package. According to a Dow Jones release, some lawmakers have concerns about including provisions to promote broadband deployment that could be perceived as ‘corporate welfare’ for telecommunications companies. These perceptions could lead lawmakers away from developing sound technology policy and would jeopardize the effectiveness of any economic stimulus effort.

Broadband is one of the most powerful tools we can use to re-energize our economy. The U.S. will not regain its place as a world economic leader without making use of this essential resource. Broadband access can help close long-standing gaps between our society’s ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’.

The government won’t be able to reach every American home with broadband without investing in infrastructure and creating incentives for deployment. It would be a shame if misperceptions about government funded investments and incentives to promote universal access to broadband service would steer lawmakers away from making these sound policy decisions.

Let’s not forget that this is a stimulus package. Federal investment in broadband deployment will support short- and long-term economic growth. Broadband projects would create much-needed jobs for the next 2-3 years. According to the Communications Workers of America, 100,000 jobs would be created for every $5 billion spent on broadband infrastructure development.

The solutions under consideration won’t just create jobs. With broadband accessible to more households, currently marginalized segments of our society will benefit from access to better information, more efficient commercial transactions, innumerable educational resources, and the opportunity to create stronger connections with others.

In order to ensure maximum growth in all sectors of our economy and advance the quality of life, it is essential that we invest in comprehensive broadband infrastructure development.