Blog Archive 2011


December 19, 2011

Connect to Compete: Bridging the Divide

By: Jason A. Llorenz, Esq.

The digital divide is as real today as it was when it was coined over a decade ago. The divide, as HTTP regularly underscores, includes both a lag in access to digital tools, and a dearth in the digital skills needed to compete in the evolving, global economy. We at the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) applaud the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), and providers like Time Warner Cable (TWC) for their support of Connect to Compete. The program will enable families with a child in the National School Lunch Program to have access to affordable broadband.

Providing low-cost connectivity is one of the most essential actions needed to encourage broadband adoption and spread access to the tools needed to increase digital literacy among the most economically hard-hit Americans.  As we know, the importance of the Internet in daily life is increasing. Getting and retaining a broadband connection at home is required for a promising future. Connect to Compete will help thousands of families conquer the digital divide, and make our country better equipped to compete in a technologically-intensive world. With continued support of programs like Connect to Compete, low income families that are underrepresented in today’s digital age will begin to realize the benefits of broadband in their lives.

Broadband is a key tool for empowering the Hispanic community, with adoption rates well below the national average. Not surprisingly, financial issues factor heavily in adoption rates. Connect to Compete’s targeting of low-income families, leaves us optimistic that the digital divide can be bridged and low-income Hispanics will become better connected to broadband technology, creating opportunities for Hispanic communities across the nation.

This rare collaboration of the public sector, cable providers, and industry groups working to ensure greater participation in a growing and increasingly important broadband movement is to be applauded.  Digital divide: your days are numbered.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Twitter: @HISPANICTTP

December 7, 2011

The Supercommittee Failed…but There is Hope in the Airwaves

BY: Jason Llorenz, Esq.

The failure of the so-called Congressional “super committee” had left an important piece of the telecommunications policy agenda in limbo. The initiation of spectrum reallocation to address the looming spectrum crunch was reverted back to the Congressional committees with jurisdiction.

Along with the cost-saving deal the super committee was seeking, was a long-awaited plan for auction of broadcast spectrum for wireless, which would have driven billions of dollars to the treasury for deficit reduction. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Genachowski and others have widely discussed the importance of making more spectrum available for wireless services, and the National Broadband Plan calls for release of 500 MHz of spectrum over 10 years to address wireless demand that is expected to expand 35 times the 2009 level by 2014. The looming spectrum crunch could affect everything from price to quality of wireless – which Latinos rely on extensively for both phone and Internet access.

A number of bills are pending in the House and Senate that would address spectrum reallocation. On December 1st, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology approved the Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act of 2011. This bill would give the FCC the authority to conduct incentive auctions and provide for the construction of an interoperable public safety communications network.

Many agree that authorizing the FCC to conduct incentive auctions would provide a tremendous boost to the economy.  Auctions would direct some of the proceeds to broadcasters seeking to surrender their broadcast TV spectrum. Part of the revenue could be used to fund the interoperable public safety networkrecommended by the 9-11 Commission, now on hold for a decade. All this, while relocating spectrum to build advanced communications networks, freeing up billions of dollars in investment.

The Need for Action

There is no doubt that spectrum is vital to the continued growth of the American economy.  Spectrum has myriad utilities and is a catalyst for economic growth and job creation. Yet, it is both finite and not currently maximized.  One writersums up the situation succinctly: “Like beachfront property, the natural world only gives us so much prime broadcast spectrum.” That spectrum, as it is allocated today, is not giving us its maximum benefit. “Our uses for that prime broadcast spectrum are unlimited. Consider radio, television, GPS, cellular phones, wireless Internet, air traffic control and first responder communications. All of these compete for access to that finite range of spectrum.”

Americans have come to rely on spectrum in their everyday lives. Yet as wireless providers are looking to innovate and invest based on the availability of spectrum, politics and policy have stalled progress.

While we know that there are no guarantees in Washington DC, there is a chance the JOBS Act adopted last week will be considered by the full House Energy and Commerce committee.  If that occurs, the House of Representatives could pass this spectrum bill prior to its Holiday break.

This would mean that the House and Senate would have the opportunity to reconcile their differences and the President could sign the long-overdue spectrum legislation into law early next year.  If Congress does act, the millions of individuals who will receive smart phones, tablets, and other wireless devices as gifts can enjoy their gadgets knowing the spectrum crunch will be averted.  More importantly, increased investment and the resulting economic stimulus greatly improve the chances countless Americans will soon receive what they are wishing for during this upcoming Holiday season- a job

Jason Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).  You can follow him on Twitter at @hispanicttp and learn more at:  Email at:

December 2, 2011

Dallas Morning News: “Old-school” FCC is Out of Touch With the Times?

— by Jason Llorenz, Esq.

Following this week’s release of the FCC’s controversial internal report critical of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger, much of the back-and-forth has focused on the details—how many jobs would be created, what percentage of the population would get access to LTE, how much spectrum is really available, etc.

Obviously these are important questions—and there’s clearly merit to criticisms that the FCC cherry-picked facts to support its views—but what’s received less attention is what the entire process may have revealed about the FCC.

As The Dallas Morning News pointed out in a spot-on editorial this morning, throughout the AT&T/T-Mobile review, the FCC has taken a narrow, “old-school” view of competition that is out of touch with the realities of the modern telecom business:

Simply declaring that a big telecom firm is getting bigger, that big is always bad and that jobs might be lost ignores the economics of scale and other technological and procedural efficiencies that lead to new products and services… In the long run, the ability to move data quickly and affordably translates into thousands of new jobs and more efficient commerce, both within telecommunications and other industries.

Telecom innovation moves fast. It is hard for anyone to keep up. But that’s no excuse for the regulators charged with fostering a robust and competitive marketplace. We can not hold on to dated conceptions of competition or ideas about the telecom industry based on old “ACME steel” conceptions of mergers. This ignores the complexities of the world we are moving toward — where wireless competition comes from multiple places and an expanding list of players.

On Wednesday of this week the FCC released a report on broadband adoption which acknowledged that one third of Americans don’t have broadband at home, and warned that the U.S. is falling behind our global competition.

But as the AT&T/T-Mobile review reminds us, we are not going to catch up unless government, industry and all players can approach this brave new world in a way that stimulates investment and makes new ventures possible.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). You can follow him on Twitter at @hispanicttp and learn more at:  Email at: Twitter: @hispanicttp

November 8, 2011

The Latino Digitial Divide: a Presentation for #LATISM ’11


This week, I will be leading a panel in Chicago for LATISM – an online community of Latinos in Social Media, as a part of their annual conference. LATISM is made up of thousands of Latino social media participants — bloggers, tweeters, and online conversants who use social media to build community online under the hashtag, #LATISM. The talk will explore the Latino digital divide – an opportunity to engage a group of the community’s digital elite in HTTP’s work of evangelizing digital literacy and supporting policies focused on closing the digital divide.

* * *

The LATISM conference is a somewhat ironic venue for a talk about the digital divide. After all, the most digitally literate, active, and Internet-astute of the Latino digerati make up this online community.  But beyond LATISM members lay a complex story about Latinos and their relationships with the Internet and the digital tools that drive so much of the future of economic opportunity.

Latinos are widely recognized as leading technology adopters – from mobile phones and devices to tablet computers, Latinos lead Americans in purchasing, and using this technology for some reasons we understand, and others we are just beginning to. Despite these facts, the digital divide yet to be addressed is in two areas: First, there is an access and tools issue — the dramatically lower rate Latinos report in adopting broadband at home, and second, in the community’s level of digital literacy – the digital skills that will facilitate economic opportunity and advancement in the new economy.

Defining the Latino Digital Divide

The Latino digital divide is not simply about being connected to the Internet. It is about the community’s ability to leverage the Internet and digital tools for economic and social advancement. To do so, the community must be digitally literate – something harder to define than the statistics on connectivity.

Literacy, digital and otherwise, comes in so many forms – and Hispanics’ relationship with the Internet and digital skills is complex. Researchers Shapiro and Hasset report: “80% of Latinos view the Internet as important for economic opportunity and ‘keeping up with the times,’ compared to 65% of Whites.” This would lead us to believe that the community values the Internet and understands its power to create opportunity. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, 51 percent of Hispanics access the Internet via a mobile device, while only 33 percent of whites do. The mobile platform has proven to be an accessible “on-ramp” to the Internet; Latinos are adopting mobile technology, and using it for access. This is one reason we support private sector opportunities to extend high-speed, next-generation wireless broadband, or 4G/LTE across the country, which, as the technology matures, will offer connectivity at speeds that rival home broadband.

In contrast to the discussion of mobile, Latinos remain on the wrong side of an ongoing divide in home broadband adoption – only 45 percent have home broadband access, compared to 52 percent of African Americans and 65 percent of whites, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Those numbers may or may not shock – but when we look more closely at the FCC’s numbers, we see that only 20 percent of Spanish-dominant Latinos, who tend to be less affluent and more recent immigrants, have adopted home broadband. Survey participants who were non-adopters cited lack of perceived value of the Internet and price as primary reasons for not adopting. That lack of home access relegates resume-building, job applications and other activity, in most cases, to school time or library time, while their counterparts may work on these at their leisure, as a family, in their homes. The FCC and industry has been working to drive solutions to this problem, first through the Comcast program that brought $9.99 Internet and a $149 computer to families with a child qualified for free school lunch, and, just this week, other cable providers, including Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and others, joined with a similar offeringthat will extend this opportunity across more markets around the country. These programs hold exciting potential for closing the gap and putting high-speed Internet tools into the hands of families lagging behind.

A Simple Question – Can My Digital Skills Help Feed My Family?

Connectivity is only part of the discussion.  Focusing on the question of what one can do with the Internet is key. Looking at the numbers overall, the Latino digital divide can be confused, as many say, rightly, “I have the Internet on my phone,” and soon,  the low-cost, cable opportunities may begin to close the access gap for poor families. Fact is, the numbers show that mobile is already providing a lifeline to small businesses, connecting people, and helping families to save money — and the new cable programs will further drive down barriers to home broadband as well.  But to assess digital literacy, the question to ask is, “can you leverage your online skills to get a job or run a business that will feed your family?”

The national unemployment rate in the middle of 2011 was 8.8 percent, yet the rate for Hispanics was 11.3 percent – about 43 percent higher than the 7.9 percent unemployment rate among whites, according to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics. We know that the grand majority of today’s good jobs – and an even larger portion of them in the future – will be those created by the digital economy. One’s ability to Bing or Google something is among the most basic expectations of an entry-level job. But real money can be made by people who can manage a spreadsheet or database program, program HTML – and, more and more, those who can develop and manage social media tools to move the bottom line or get traction for an idea or brand.

To be ready for those jobs, and to build the wealth-creating businesses of the future, communities must be online and ready to use the Internet across platforms. That means access to the tools must include a focus on learning how to use them productively. The iPhone has put a high-powered mini-computer in one’s hand; a tablet is a touch-screen window to the world. But use them only for games and sports scores, and these tools may as well be a pillow in the dessert – comforting, but not so life-enhancing.

Look To The Future

Economies change. The transition from farm to manufacturing took decades. The digital revolution is happening at Internet speed. The digital divide threatens to leave large portions of the Latino community in the last century, without the skills to fully benefit from the opportunities of the future.

The app market, for example, was an $8 billion ecosystem this year – and is only in its infancy. The Latino developers, marketers and digital entrepreneurs of the future have an opportunity to participate in this marketplace and create wealth. If there is an economic movement toward digital literacy, it must involve the opportunities created by this open marketplace where a 99-cent app that catches fire can drive dollars to its inventor and investors, or any cause.

Are you listening #occupiers?

Investment of time and resources in Latino digital literacy, powered by a high speed Internet connection provides opportunities in all of its forms – wireless, and wired interfaces, by laptop, iPhone, desktop or iPad – Latinos must be prepared to leverage the tools to build wealth and participate in the changing economy.

Those future opportunities include helping to address some of the most important, ongoing social problems. Many of the top thinkers in the field believe, for example, that broadband can reduce the cost of delivering high-quality healthcare, especially in rural areas where the closest hospital may be more than 100 miles away. With broadband Internet, doctors can provide timely diagnoses through remote consultations, saving patients the time and expense of traveling to the doctor’s office. Emerging mobile health and distance healthcare technology offer a significant opportunity to address the health disparities facing the most vulnerable, rural and mobile Latino communities. But will Latino entrepreneurs and health providers be a part of creating these revolutionary healthcare offerings?

Minority digital entrepreneurship is one key to long-term economic recovery and creating wealth. Investment of time, energy and community focus on digital skills building is not only a matter of economic necessity, but key to longevity for America’s fastest growing community.

The challenges are real and so is the potential to ensure American prosperity. LATISM is at the head of the curve on this – and now we must all work to ensure policymakers recognize the importance of supporting digital literacy to fuel innovation and drive America’s economic recovery.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). You can follow him on Twitter at @hispanicttp and learn more at . Email at Twitter: @hispanicttp

November 4, 2011

HTTP Applauds the House on Passage of the Wireless Tas Fairness Act, Calls for Action in the Senate to Protect Consumers from Regressive Wireless Taxes

November 4th, 2011 (Washington, DC) – The HTTP coalition applauds the House for bipartisan action in passage of legislation, which, if enacted into law, will protect consumers from hikes in state and local taxes on wireless services – a growing burden on the mobile services that provide an affordable means of communication and access to information for millions of families.

Latino communities rely on wireless devices more than other Americans. Hispanics are more likely than Whites to access the Internet and e-mail on a mobile device. Hispanics are also more likely than Whites to rely on a mobile Internet connection in lieu of a home broadband connection. Burdensome local taxes raise the cost of these services for families already struggling through tough economic times. “Excessive wireless taxes are regressive. They hurt struggling families by driving up costs, and discourage use of mobile Internet and the mobile platform at a time when we are fighting to get Latinos, and all Americans online and using the Internet to enhance their lives,” said Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director, League of united Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

“Latinos have been particularly hard hit by the economic downturn. Barriers like excessive taxes, burdensome bureaucracy or arbitrary charges threaten to make wireless services that could assist in getting a job or starting a business unaffordable or out of reach, ” said Lillian Rodríguez López, President, Hispanic Federation.

“Raising the cost of wireless services places barriers to those already struggling to catch up. We applaud the House for this pro-consumer and pro-Latino legislation,” said Jose Marquez, President and CEO, Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association (LISTA).

HTTP calls on the Senate to take up and pass companion bill, S.543, introduced in the upper chamber by Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Olympia Snowe.

The average wireless consumer today pays over 16% in taxes on wireless services. This is nearly double the taxes on other goods and services, and regressive on minority communities that already have higher rates of unemployment, and lost more household wealth in the recent economic downturn. We encourage Congress to pass this measure to ease an increasing burden on services relied upon by families across the country.

“Mobile devices provide a connection and information access point for poor families and those already struggling economically. Adding multiple, discriminatory local taxes to these services harms the affordability that makes the mobile platform such a lifeline for Latinos and others in hard times,” said Jason A. Llorenz, HTTP Executive Director.

Read the Full Letter (PDF)


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

October 25, 2011

Jobs and Investment On the Line: AN UPDATE ON AT&T/T-Mobile

By: Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. and Enrique Cortez

A great deal has been said about the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) suit to block the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. Some speculate the deal is dead. In fact, there are two simultaneous processes unfolding – one, in which AT&T is defending against the DOJ suit in court (trial is scheduled for February 13th, and another track through negotiations in which AT&T will seek conditions on the transaction that may satisfy the DOJ and allow the transaction to proceed to FCC review. The nature of these legal processes — particularly the DOJ negotiations, means we will not know much about them as they ensue. Here is an update on the conversation, the stakes and what the ongoing uncertainty means for this transaction.

Days ago, CWA’s President suggested that, while many barriers remain, there may be a settlement. Last week, conversation about potential divestiture of assets to Metro PCS to strengthen that smaller carrier as a part of the deal drew attention. Meanwhile, talk continues that a cable buyout deal may be a plan B if such a settlement can’t be reached.

Jobs, Investment In The Lurch

The Communications Workers of America is an unwavering supporter of this deal – its stake in the creation of good jobs, and expanded opportunity to organize T-Mobile’s workers are clear. The organization recently filed a report, Blocking The AT&T/T-Mobile Merger will harm Consumers, Communities and the Economy, with the FCC, outlining the damage that would be done to both companies and the opportunity for job growth if the deal fails. The report does not deal directly with the DOJ’s anti-trust concerns, instead looking more closely at the economic impact of the deal and the scenarios resulting from potentially blocking the merger.

CWA, like many advocates for the deal, argue that consumers, workers and communities will be better off from the jobs-creating investments to be made, and the opportunities to be offered to consumers from better use of T-Mobile’s assets.  In terms of jobs and consumer benefits, CWA’s report highlights the following:

  • AT&T will keep all T-Mobile call center workers employed and bring 5,000 call center jobs to the US from overseas;

  • AT&T will expend additional capital to expand its 4G-LTE network to 55 million more people and, in the process of that investment, create as many as 96,000 jobs;

  • AT&T has already promised to maintain T-Mobile’s existing rate plans;

  • AT&T will use its spectrum to create a more efficient network with better service quality, which benefits communities.

T-Mobile Crunched

T-Mobile has continued to experience a decline in revenues and subscribers. Deutsche Telekom, the parent company of T-Mobile USA, has repeatedly stated it would not make any further capital investment into T-Mobile.

Under current circumstances, T-Mobile’s customers would not expect the company to deploy a next-generation 4G LTE wireless network – a necessary action for T-Mobile to remain competitive in the wireless market.  In fact, since this deal was announced, T-Mobile faces even worse circumstances in facing Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, which has now added the iPhone to its device offering, strengthening its competitive edge in the market. This, along with the fierce competition being fought for the lower-income customer by Metro PCS, Cricket, Virgin Mobile and a bevy of pre-paid phone and data options, T-Mobile is not in a good place.

The only solution is for T-Mobile to be sold to a company that can afford to make the needed investments in its assets for growth.

CWA’s report is clear on the danger to T-Mobile’s workers. They expect that, if the deal is blocked, current ownership is likely to cut thousands of T-Mobile workers to maintain its margin and maximize proceeds from any future deal.

One fact for the economy is that uncertainly benefits neither business nor consumers.

Jason Lorenz, Esq. Is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

Twitter: @hispanicttp

Enrique Cortez is President and Founder, Enitial Advanced Communications.

September 26, 2011

Hispanic Heritage Month: Celebrating Latino Digital Opportunity


In celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, we are reminded of the progress made, and the struggles ahead for America’s fastest-growing community. This month, we celebrate the accomplishments of Latinos in politics, business, and every American sphere. Latinos have progressed, and continue to grow in buying power, educational attainment and number. The work of ensuring Latino participation in all aspects of American life must also include ensuring full digital inclusion – the advancement of digitally literate communities who are online and ready to leverage digital tools across their lives.

HTTP is proud to represent 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. As a coalition, HTTP’s members support policies that promote universal access to, and adoption of technology, including broadband Internet. HTTP members support the policies, partnerships and public- and private-sector opportunities to ensure investment leading to expanded broadband access and innovation that makes the Internet more useful to this community.

We care about these policy and business matters for important reasons. According to the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project, 51 percent of Hispanics access the Internet via a mobile device, while only 33 percent of whites do. The mobile platform has proven to be an accessible “on-ramp” to the Internet while many Latinos continue to lag in adoption of home broadband. Ensuring that Latinos are online, and using the Internet in their daily lives to access education, healthcare and other opportunities is a key to ensuring the future prosperity for the community. This adoption of mobile must be matched by overall digital literacy that comes with Hispanics adopting digital tools across platforms.

Latinos continue to lead in entrepreneurship — establishing a record number of new businesses. With broadband Internet, small businesses can reduce operating costs while increasing their competitive edge. Broadband access allows business owners, even home-based businesses, to take full advantage of the global digital economy by having real time access to market data, paying bills online, conducting market research through social media, and improving the efficiency of their business operations. It also allows businesses to connect to new markets a few towns or a continent away. These efficiencies can lead to growth and job creation.

The benefits of broadband are not just tied to business. A digital connection also produces significant benefits for individuals and families. For example, broadband access can reduce the cost of delivering high-quality healthcare, especially in rural areas where the closest hospital maybe more than 100 miles away. With broadband Internet, doctors can provide timely diagnoses through remote consultations, saving patients the time and expense of traveling to the doctor’s office (10 Benefits of Health IT). Emerging mobile health and distance healthcare technology offer a significant opportunity to address the health disparities facing the most vulnerable, rural and mobile Latino communities.

For Hispanics, broadband Internet access is no longer a luxury but a competitive necessity. Without reliable access, businesses and individuals will miss out on opportunities and information, putting them at a disadvantage in today’s digital economy. That is why the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership is proud to add its voice to the call for the deployment of broadband Internet throughout our country, and national attention to realizing universal digital literacy. It is, in fact, the quickly emerging American communities who will benefit most from the rapid deployment of technology in the digital age.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP)

Twitter: @hispanicttp

September 20, 2011

Google, Motorola Deal: Mobile Innovation, Investment, and Opportunity

By: Jason Llorenz, Esq.

Google, the search engine leader is not slowing, even after it recently found itself under investigation by regulators seeking insight into its search practices. Google recently announced its aim to venture further beyond what it has accomplished in cyberspace with its $12.5 billion deal to buy Motorola’s cellphone business.  The move has brought up a great many question as to how the deal will reshape the mobile world, Google’s culture and, from our perspective, Latinos and their use of mobile technology.

For the everyday Jose, the purchase is exciting and intriguing –it combines Google’s modern ingenuity with Motorola’s stalwart engineering expertise and inventiveness, to compete in the cut-throat mobile hardware space.  New meets older, meets tough challenges – compelling stuff.

The story beneath the surface is the less exciting narrative of the sad state of the present patent system and the dizzyingly complicated Intellectual Property litigation landscape.  The real story that may benefit Latino, and other mobile consumers is that Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility gives it the needed commodity of the manufacturer’s patent portfolio – valued not for the sake of its content alone, but as a shield to protect the company from lawsuits from others such as LG, RIM, Samsung, Apple. Fewer lawsuits mean better prices for consumers.

Competition is already fierce in the smartphone and tablet market, and the purchase enhances the position of Google’s Android-based mobile system by tightly integrating hardware and software.   According to Information Week, “Android’s mobile phone market share [is] at 43.4% vs. 18.2% for Apple’s is, and that Google’s year-over-year share gain was 26.2%, vs. 4.1% for is.  In other words, there is not only an all-out war to win at mobile, but winning in mobile propels companies to untold value.”

For Google’s partners, there are questions as to whether Motorola will become the preferred vendor, allowing the merged company to gain greater market share by virtue of proximity.  Google contends that this won’t be an issue.

“Our vision for Android is unchanged and Google remains firmly committed to Android as an open platform and a vibrant open source community.  We will continue to work with all of our valued Android partners to develop and distribute innovative Android-powered devices,” said Andy Rubin, Google’s senior VP of mobile, in a statement.

The deal for Google comes at a whopping 63% premium at $40 per share in cash.  In exchange for its $12.5 billion, Google gets Motorola’s patents, a huge chunk of engineering brainpower and almost 20,000 additional employees — doubling the Internet company’s work force, though it remains to be seen how much impact Google will have on Motorola’s workforce since they have indicated the company will continue to operate as its own entity, within Google.

Still, growth creates new expectations for Google as an employer and corporate citizen, whose policies for supplier diversity, hiring and retaining diverse talent will be under the microscope of a national community of leaders seeking to ensure Google meets its responsibilities to a Latino community leading in the purchase and use of the mobile platform – much like the companies that appear on the Hispanic Business top companies list released this month.

Google’s innovation of new and exciting mobile services to be driven from this deal is likely to continue the beneficial growth of the mobile platform for Latinos – a platform that continues to drive jobs, communication and connection to the mobile world, especially when the wire-line broadband adoption divide continues as a stark challenge. More and better mobile devices and services remain a key opportunity to connect Latinos, and serves as an important “on-ramp” to the Internet.

While the biggest acquisition in Google’s history still needs to be approved by regulators in the U.S and Europe, industry experts widely expect the deal to be approved.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. Is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

Twitter: @hispanicttp

September 1, 2011

DOJ, AT&T and Latinos: What Now, and What’s Next?

Jason Llorenz, Esq. (twitter: @hispanicttp)

As has been widely reported, the Department of Justice just took a week that is traditionally quiet in Washington, and turned the telecommunications industry and the multitude of advocates who follow one of America’s growing, profitable, job-creating industries, on its ear. AT&T’s planned acquisition of T-Mobile for $39 billion is another example of national Latino leaders carefully, thoughtfully examining the facts of the deal, and ultimately, widely supporting the transaction, expecting that, in ongoing DOJ and FCC review, conditions on the transactions’ close (which could include any number of concessions, from sale of portions of AT&T or T-Mobile’s assets, to ceding spectrum to competitors) would result in a transaction that could strengthen and expand the mobile broadband marketplace, make good, efficient use of limited spectrum resources, and save the jobs of more than 20,000 T-Mobile workers who remain in the lurch as T-Mobile faces failure and a longer period of uncertainty. These goals are key to Latinos’ interests. And so, what now?

First, DOJ action takes this to a judicial proceeding that all agree is uncertain .  Antitrust review has not been a subject of comment by HTTP members and the other Hispanic organizations who weigh in on this transaction. But what has always been at the crux of the value of this deal for this coalition and other supporters, is that the AT&T purchase offered an opportunity to 1) expand the opportunity to unionize to T-Mobile workers, 2) to add to AT&T’s industry-leading supplier diversity program, which delivers billions of dollars to Latino, African American, and women and other minority-owned small business around the country, and 3) to expand high-speed, wireless broadband access to millions of communities who are on the wrong side of the digital divide. These are important goals that were to be accomplished through this deal.

While the transaction is not dead, one must hope that any negotiations that take place with the DOJ’s anti-trust division continue to consider the opportunities presented for Latino entrepreneurship and expanded job creation and security in the deal. Speculation on alternate buyers feature several experiments – including a cable industry conglomeration, purchase by Apple or Google or a group of VC investors. None of these offer the record of AT&T in community investment, diverse hiring, nor supplier diversity – which must continue to be the focus of any analysis of this deal, proposals to salvage it, or new entrants to purchase.

Robust government review of this, and any deal is expected, but the DOJ’s action this week stymies the Latino community’s efforts to continue advocacy on the deal to ensure its ultimate structure would benefit this community.

Lillian Rodriguez-Lopez, President of Hispanic Federation, an HTTP member, said it best:

The Justice Department’s action seems premature and perplexing given the level of public discourse currently underway across the country on the merger.  More than most groups, Latinos depend on wireless and mobile broadband connectivity; and our organization, like many, was focused on fully reviewing the merger and advocating where necessary for enhanced benefits and protections for our community…

Detractors have fiercely worked to derail this deal, many of which claim victory this week, as if T-Mobile has been saved, jobs guaranteed, and investments secured that would keep T-Mobile a viable entity. In truth, the hard questions of what happens to T-Mobile without the investments that would have come with the proposed merger remain more important than ever. If the AT&T transaction ultimately fails, will new buyer(s) of T-Mobile come to the table with a commitment to supplier diversity? What about treatment of its workforce or expedient investment to expand high-speed broadband? Important for those claiming a win this week — can T-Mobile’s pricing structure remain while securing similar commitments to bring 5,000 call center jobs back to American shores, as AT&T did this week? The answers to many of these questions are likely to be a resounding “no.” And that may be a net loss to this community.

Jason Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP)

August 17, 2011

AT&T/T-Mobile and the California Regulatory Commission

— by Enrique Cortez,

As has been recently discussed on this site, the proposed plan to bring together AT&T and T-Mobile has been hailed by many within and outside the community as a unique occasion to strengthen Latinos’ ability to secure cutting-edge communications and mobile broadband technology.  Now, the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) is holding a series of public hearings to examine the $39 billion acquisition and its affect on consumers. For the Latino community in California, the facts are clear that the deal will be a great benefit to Latinos in the Golden State.

Being the most diverse state in the country, California has a unique set of needs given its high-density urban cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco as well as wide-open rural communities such as Fresno and its surrounding areas.  This geographic diversity brings a unique set of challenges. However, both the urban poor and vulnerable rural communities share the same concerns over the looming “spectrum crunch” as does Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski.  As Chairman Genachowski has argued, a crisis resulting from an unresolved spectrum crunch will lead to higher prices and decreased availability of mobile broadband.

No wonder that citizens throughout the state have come out to testify in support of the merger for its educational and economic benefits.  The hearings, led by Commissioner Catherine Sandoval, are expected to result in a CPUC decision later this fall.  With the California PUC’s recommendation as well as a final decision from federal regulators, AT&T will be able to move forward with its stated plans to use T-Mobile’s spectrum allocation to build-out next generation mobile technology and ease the burden on its own network.

Broadband Diversity

Prior to her appointment to the CPUC, then-Santa Clara University Professor and Associate Director of the Broadband Institute of California, Commissioner Sandoval gave a presentation to an FCC workgroup in October 2009 on the access gaps to broadband through the lens of diversity.  She cited that wireless access was a complement to home broadband, especially for Latinos who have high levels of wireless phone use and are more likely to use cell phones for email and to get on the web.

In her FCC presentation, Commissioner Sandoval mentions the all-too-familiar barriers of cost, relevance and literacy preventing higher adoption rates of home broadband amongst specific communities including Latinos.  While these issues continue to be the crux of the Digital Divide, the benefits of wireless broadband are too big to ignore.

Latinos have become avid users of wireless broadband and the AT&T/T-Mobile merger promises to increase access to the wireless Internet.   This alone will be a great benefit to the Latino community that seeks affordable and easy entry points to cyberspace and all the opportunities it has to offer.

Without a doubt, there are differences to what a cell phone can offer as a substitute to a landlocked computer – differences in hardware and software capabilities – yet these limitations do not outweigh the tremendous advantages that increased wireless broadband provides, especially as better technology evolves to be able to use high-speed wireless connections to connect a laptop or computer to broadband at near-landline speeds.  For rural, hard-to-reach areas and Latinos living in these communities, the merger promises expanded coverage, better service, new products and lower prices.

“After the acquisition closes, customers’ voice and data experience will improve as the networks combine and AT&T builds out its LTE network,’’ Hernan Daguerre, a T-Mobile USA spokesman, said, referring to the AT&T long-term evolution technology.  While detractors continue to emerge, the deal is widely seen as a boon for consumers as well as the competitive marketplace, as T-Mobile’s fortunes necessitate a sale of its assets. Those assets are significant, and the buyer must be willing to invest in next-generation networks in order for those towers and connections to benefit anyone. AT&T has promised this in this merger.

Competition Is Key

For quite some time now, T-Mobile’s performance had been underwhelming and was expected to only get worse.  In terms of outlay, the investment that AT&T has committed represents not only billions of dollars to stop T-Mobile’s assets from falling into uncertainty but it serves as a spur to an already vibrant and fast-paced market.

Within the industry, upstarts such as Metrics, Cricket and others in the growing prepaid wireless and second-tier sector serve as a viable alternative for low-income families.  In her own FCC presentation, Commissioner Sandoval states: “prepaid cell phones with web access create new opportunities [for low-income potential web users]”.

For businesses both small and large, the economic impact is also considerable.  By recommending the merger to move forward, the CPUC ensures AT&T will have the ability to expand its high-speed 4G LTE network to 55 million more Americans than are now serve by its existing network.  This build-out means jobs will be created in the telecom sector as well throughout the economy. The new LTE network will better serve rural businesses, in particular. These companies can become more competitive, and will drive job creation opportunities in their area.

The California PUC has worked for some time to speed up the deployment of broadband infrastructure within California by seeking to remove regulatory and other barriers to broadband deployment.  The state commission has recognized that California will derive economic development and social benefits from such deployment and the competition that will result from it.

For its part, AT&T has been equally engaged by investing in California’s digital future through the company’s involvement to inaugurate the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF).  AT&T’s continued partnership with CETF and collaboration with statewide leaders has led to new efforts to close the Digital Divide such as the launch of Club Digital – the nation’s most comprehensive bilingual, multimedia Internet training program targeting Latino families.

While the California PUC deliberates, it should take into account the many advantages to be gained by this merger not just for Latinos but also for all consumers.  Literacy, access and affordability can all be addressed through the proposed deal.

Enrique Cortez is President and Founder of Enitial Advanced Communications.

August 10, 2011

Reforming USF & ICC: Leading Telecoms Provide a Way Forward Towards Universal Broadband

by: Jason Llorenz, HTTP Executive Director

Recently, a group of the nation’s leading broadband providers submitted a proposal to the Federal Communications Commission to reform elements of the universal service fund (USF) and the inter-carrier compensation system (ICC) – two important programs that, respectively, today subsidize telephone service in rural areas, and establish the now-aged rules of the road for hand-off of long-distance calls. Most important for advocates of universal broadband access, the USF reform proposal call for those funds to be redirected to realizing our 21st Century goals for broadband access to all Americans, including rural and other high-cost areas.  The coalition filed its recommendation with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

HTTP has previously called for national attention to universal broadband and taken a close look at the USFreform process driven by the FCC.  By all accounts, the industry’s new proposal is a good start, aligned with many of those goals.  Clearly, USF reform requires leadership from all involved in order to achieve the goals of the National Broadband Plan.

The coalition includes AT&T, Verizon,  CenturyLink Inc., Frontier Communications Corp., Fairpoint Communications Inc., Windstream Corp. and the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA), the Organization for the Promotion and Advancement of Small Telecommunications Companies and the Western Telecommunications Alliance — six major companies that are among the largest recipients of USF dollars to provide phone service in rural and poor areas.

The FCC had previously proposed reforming the $4.5 billion high-cost portion of USF to focus on broadband deployment that connects “virtually all” Americans to high speed Internet within five years in the National Broadband Plan.

This plan would build a new Connect America Fund to deploy broadband access where there is currently no business case for carriers to provide service. Rural broadband subsidies would be awarded through “a combination of a forward-looking cost models and competitive bidding”. The plan is also technology neutral: providers could use any wire line or wireless technology as long as it meets the FCC’s bandwidth and capacity requirements.

In terms of ICC reform, the plan recommends a low flat rate of $0.0007 for firms to pay one another for carrying each other’s telephone traffic.  ICC Compensation reform is needed to eliminate the waste, fraud and abuse made possible by the current complicated, multi-tiered ICC system. “Pumping” schemes have developed into large business models that “pump” calls into a rural carrier, for example, via a “free” conferencing service – ultimately compensated by the arcane rules of ICC. These schemes draw hundreds of millions of dollars out of the system, and drive prices up.

The plan can have a positive impact in extending broadband to Latinos living in rural and hard to reach places – and USF reform should be directed at bringing broadband to those unreached by a connection to the digital world.

The proposal does not deal with the USF’s Low Income programs (Lifeline) – which many Latinos use to afford basic telephone service, nor address specific efforts to increase Latino Broadband adoption and digital literacy.

During this review, it is vital that the Commission take into account the specific needs of the Latino community while deliberating on what the final reform package will be. USF reform is one of the keys to bringing the economic benefits of broadband to all communities.  The national community needs the type of leadership that this proposal embodies to be able to move forward in closing the digital divide for all.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP)

Follow us on Twitter: @hispanicttp

July 27, 2011

HTTP Convenes Digital Empowerment Panel at NCLR’s 2011 Convention


On July 26th, HTTP helped to convene a high-level group of leaders,moderated by HTTP ED, Jason Llorenz, for a panel discussion on the Internet’s impact on jobs and the Hispanic community during the National Council of La Raza’s 2011 Conference in Washington, DC.  The NCLR Annual Conference represents the largest and most important gathering of the nation’s most influential individuals, organizations, institutions, and companies working with the Hispanic community.

The panel, entitled “Latinos, The Internet and Digital Empowerment – The Issues Facing Jobs, Education and Economics in a Digital Economy”, featured the Honorable Mignon Clyburn, FCC Commissioner, Former Commissioner, Henry Rivera, and Board Chair, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, Gus West, Board Chair, The Hispanic Institute, and Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director, LULAC.

The discussion was organized around the key topics of digital literacy and the Hispanic home broadband adoption gap, as well as the ways that Hispanics use and access broadband.

Speakers highlighted Comcast’s wonderful $9.95 Internet offering for families with a child qualified for free school lunch. The Internet Essentials program is available throughout Comcast markets, and – panelists hope – will soon be similarly available with other cable providers.

Panelists reacted to videos by the Broadband Opportunities coalition members, LULAC and NCLR – available at

Panelists noted that a high-speed digital connection and a computer facilitate access to jobs and information, creation of businesses, and cost-savings for families.  Programs like Internet Essentials are needed because Latino families continue to be less likely than whites to have a home broadband connection, and continue to lag in the development of digital skills needed to access opportunities in the new economy.

This “digital divide” means that Latinos (45%) trail whites (65%), and blacks (52%) in leveraging the power of high speed Internet via a home broadband connection, resulting in a lag in the development of critical skills needed to get a job, access educational opportunities and participate in a global, digital economy.  (Source: Latinos and Digital Technology 2010, Pew Hispanic Center)

Through collaboration with Hispanic-serving organizations and advocates like NCLR, HTTP is working to raise awareness of the opportunities to bridge the needs of Hispanics with the vast opportunities that cyberspace provides.

Enrique Cortez is President and Founder, Enitial Advanced Communications.

July 25, 2011

PEW Smartphone Study: The Day Smartphones Took Over

By: Jason Llorenz, Executive Director

Today, everyone has a cell phone.  More to the point, the mobile device has become essential for many people in their day-to-day lives.  With continuous advancements in mobile technology, smartphones – which provide more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a contemporary basic ‘feature phone’ – are rising in popularity and use, especially for Latinos.

According to a new study by PEW, the smartphone is quickly becoming the device of choice and amongst some demographic groups it has overtaken the basic cell phone.  The Pew Internet & American Life Project’s first stand-alone survey examining smartphone usage found that more than 1 in 3 adult Americans have taken the smartphone plunge.  This represents a tremendous growth rate given the relative young age of smartphone technology.

Additional key findings included:

  • Adoption rates were not surprisingly higher among wealthier and college-educated users, however, the study found that those under 45 as well as blacks and Latinos also had above-average adoption rates.

  • A quarter of smartphone users rely mainly on their phones for Internet access.

  • The study found that 33 percent of users said their devices were smartphones and 39 percent said their phones operate a smartphone platform such as iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone or Palm.

The Pew study speaks not only to the mobilization of modern society but the growing importance and value of access to information while on the move.  About two-thirds of those surveyed said they used their phones for e-mail and Web surfing in a typical day. In fact, about one-third of those who stated that their cell phones is their main device for Internet access also said they have cut the cord and have no high-speed broadband connection in their homes at all.

For Latinos, wireless devices continue to be an on-ramp to the Internet.  Latinos are already widely recognized as the leaders in wireless technology adoption — and evolving, innovative smart devices that allow more functionality offer promise for meaningful access to broadband, especially when home broadband adoption rates continue to lag. We want to see Latinos connected to broadband – and using that technology to engage in the global economy, find jobs, and communicate.  With the advent of faster 4G mobile connectivity and continuing innovation in mobile devices, we will be able to do more without wires than what is possible today. This technology is the shining example of innovation driving opportunity for our community.

Jason A, Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

July 13, 2011

White House Spotlights Latinos, Importance of Broadband

By: Jason Llorenz, Executive Director

On July 11 and 12, the White House hosted a comprehensive two-day conference on issues of concern to the Hispanic community — including the importance of broadband expansion.  The White House Hispanic Policy Conference brought community leaders from across the country together with a broad range of White House and Cabinet officials for an in-depth series of substantive conversations on the Administration’s efforts in the Hispanic community.

Rural broadband access, broadband adoption and high speed Internet deployment into underserved communities were are key parts of the discussion. Anna Gomez, Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), lead a panel discussion dedicated to examining broadband and the Hispanic community. Deputy Administrator Gomez had been active recently participating in Hispanic events focusing on technology and posting ablog about the importance of broadband access as a key tool for improving Hispanic communities.

The Deputy Administrator notes that, through broadband, Latinos are able to connect to better economic opportunities, health care, and education.  “NTIA’s data show that although 90-95 percent of Americans live in areas with access to broadband, only 68 percent of households subscribe to the service,” Gomez writes.  “In fact, more than 28 percent of Americans do not use the Internet in any location, which means they are cut off from countless educational and job opportunities.”

For Hispanics, the home broadband adoption gap couldn’t be clearer: “While the Internet subscribership rate for Hispanics increased by five percentage points last year, it is still only 45 percent. Even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors like income and education, Latinos still significantly lag the national rate in broadband adoption.”  This is especially true for those vulnerable populations, the elderly, minorities and those living in remote and rural communities.

Gomez cites the NTIA broadband grant program as a means of addressing the disparity. Advocates know that relevance and affordability continue to be determining factors for whether a person will adopt the Internet across their daily lives.  While “a $4 billion Recovery Act investment in high-speed Internet infrastructure, public computer centers, and broadband adoption initiatives” is significant, targeted efforts are needed for Hispanics to translate the benefits Latinos realize in mobile broadband use into home broadband adoption.

From a broader view, the conference was noteworthy for its depth of access and content.  Participants interacted with federal policy makers on issues ranging from job creation and strengthening the economy, expanding access to affordable and quality health care, reforming our nation’s education system, protecting civil rights, and fixing the broken immigration system.

Representing various agencies and offices, the Administration convened key team members from the National Economic Council, the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Management and Budget, the White House Domestic Policy Council, the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanics, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Small Business Administration, the Department of the Treasury, the General Services Administration, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

Follow HTTP on Twitter:  @hispanicttp.

July 11, 2011

Wireless Competition, Innovation From Two Corners

By Jason Llorenz, Esq.

Over the past two weeks, we saw two views of competition in the wireless industry.   First, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released its review of competition in the wireless industry.  The FCC, in over 300 pages of its report on the advances of wireless technology across American life, refrained from concluding whether or not the market is effectively competitive.  CTIA – the Wireless Association has expressed disappointment in this lack of finding – and even the most vociferous anti-industry advocates seem to struggle in finding messaging to address the FCC’s stance.  Ironically, in the same week that the FCC couldn’t make a conclusive finding on the industry’s competitiveness, the people at PC Magreleased its measurement of America’s fastest mobile networks.  The consumer-driven tests examined the evolving high-speed wireless networks – naming Verizon’s 4G LTE the most lightening fast network in a study of mobile technology that would not exist but for fierce competition for customers and the investments that result from them.

This consumer vs. government juxtaposition wasn’t lost on everyone.  Robert McDowell, FCC Commissioner said, “The wide-ranging and competitive wireless sector has and continues to deliver innovative services at low cost, all the while exhibiting some of the most impressive capital expenditure numbers of any industry in the world. … [T]he report shows that the wireless sector is dynamic, ever-improving and responsive to consumer demand.  With respect to mobile broadband service providers, the percentage of the population served by four or more providers increased from 58 percent in November 2009 to 68 percent in August 2010. And, the percentage served by three or more providers increased from 76 to 82 percent. In rural areas, 69 percent have a choice of two or more providers and 38 percent have a choice of three or more providers.”

The wireless industry is continuously evolving to support the current and future needs of their customers.  Carriers are investing billions to upgrade service and cut prices in order to win and retain subscribers in the hotly contested mobile services market.  Even in the most challenging of economic times, the wireless industry outpaces its counterparts worldwide when it comes to infrastructure investment.

The results of PC Mag’s examination of mobile broadband networks reveal a strikingly similar context of competition and investment.  “With smart phone innovation moving at a breakneck pace, new tablets hitting the market all the time, and an increasing number of people using cellular modems and mobile hotspots to get online on the go, access to speedy data coverage is becoming more essential every day,” PC Mag states in its story.  From the perspective of competition, PC Mag concludes: “mobile networks are constantly changing, and almost always for the better”.

PC Mag crowned Verizon’s 4G LTE as the clear winner in terms of blazing fast speed (in some cases faster than a home internet connection…which is exciting for those of us concerned about Latino home adoption and the digital divide).  The findings also showed that each network had different strengths. For example, it found that “AT&T’s nationwide 3G network still offers the best balance of speed and performance outside major cities.” The study also included Metro PCS and Cricket, serve a distinct need for low-cost services in a varied, competitive landscape.

So if the FCC won’t say whether wireless telecom is competitive, from a consumer standpoint, it is clear that the benefits of competition are reaching Americans.  The wireless industry is widely seen as the most innovative and competitive in the world. It is important to note that the FCC’s own report finds that over 95% of the population has access to 4 or more wireless carriers and 89% with access to 5 or more carriers.

A closer look at the facts tells a compelling story.   The majority of Americans are served by four or more providers, and new providers are continuing to enter the market.  Most customers have a choice of at least six providers, with regional carriers and smaller providers holding significant market share. Leap and MetroPCS are prime examples of this aggressive marketplace – regional carriers that have achieved market penetration rates of anywhere from 8 to 13 percent in those markets where they have been offering service for at least five years.

For Latinos, the opportunity presented by lightning-fast wireless as an option for access is significant.  Hispanics are leading the U.S. in embracing the use of these mobile technologies. A recent Pew study found that more than 87 percent of English-speaking U.S. Hispanics owned a cell phone, as compared to 80 percent of non-Hispanic whites.  Another Pew study found that, compared to the general American population, Hispanics use their cell phones more often, and they use more features on their phones.

As the technology evolves, faster networks mean more options to connect – especially for rural and mobile communities.  From banking to video sharing, Hispanics are quickly adopting the use of mobile broadband applications, which is narrowing the digital divide, all which would not be possible without a robust and competitive wireless market.

We laud the benefits of competition and investment in the wireless sector.  Competition has greatly benefited Latinos who have in turn become the largest consumers of wireless services, and continue to report a reliance on wireless for much of their life activities.  This rapid advancement of technology is, in fact, providing a continuing opportunity to meaningfully connect communities.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

July 8, 2011

The White House Unveils Two New Digital Strategies

By Jason Llorenz

In the last two weeks, President Obama launched two separate digital strategies showcasing the prominence that broadband and digital tools have taken in politics and security.  The first was the President’s much-hyped Twitter town hall that allowed him to engage directly with the web-surfing public.  The second aimed at taking the fight to Al-Qaeda in cyberspace.

The Twitter Town Hall was seen by some as an opportunity for Obama to bypass the mainstream media and get his message directly to young, plugged-in voters he’ll need to win re-election in 2012. The President often departed from Twitter’s 140-character limit, giving lengthy answers to the tweeted questions read by Twitter co-founder, Jack Dorsey. Obama even joked: “I know, Twitter.  I’m supposed to be short.”

Anyone with an Internet connection and a Twitter account had the first opportunity to ask the president their most challenging questions – within the 140-character limit of course.  Over 70,000 tweets were submitted to the town hall and the majority of the dialogue centered on jobs and the economy. Representative Charles Rangel hosted his own Virtual Town Hall with  Politic365 this week as well.

Broadband and digital networks are also at the center of the White House’s geopolitical security strategies. Nearly ten years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the White House is reinforcing the importance of the Internet to the fight against Al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks. In the hands of terrorists, the Internet and social media have become instruments of recruitment, finance and communication in support of terrorism. The National Counterterrorism Strategy includes efforts “that go beyond traditional intelligence, military, and law enforcement functions … we are depriving al-Qaida of its enabling means, including the illicit financing, logistical support, and the online communications that sustain its network,” said White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan in announcing the plan.  The plan involves disrupting the terrorist group’s ability to promote violence online.

“Mass media and the Internet in particular have emerged as enablers for terrorist planning, facilitation, and communication, and we will continue to counter terrorists’ ability to exploit them,” states the strategy document.  While not clear on tactical details, it is clear that social media will play a key role in the strategy to undermine Al-Qaeda’s world view and not allow their message of hate to spread unchecked.

Jason Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

July 7, 2011

Searching for Answers: Google vs. the Public Good

By Jason Llorenz, Esq.

For months now, speculation within the media has been high that Google will face a federal investigation into alleged anti-competitive behavior.  This week, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced it ismoving forward and will “hit Google Inc. with subpoenas, launching a broad, formal investigation into whether the Internet giant has abused its dominance in Web-search advertising”.

Unlike previous federal inquiries surrounding the company’s mergers and acquisitions, this new probe will focus on Google’s primary source of revenue: search-advertising.  The FTC – which shares responsibility for enforcing federal antitrust laws with the Justice Department – is expected to review Google’s search business practices with an eye toward determining whether those practices provide unfairly prominent placement of its services over those of competitors.

Companies have complained that Google ranks its own services in its “natural” search results, giving it an unfair advantage over other similar competing services.  Another area of speculation is what role its competitors will play in the federal investigation, many of whom have been rankled by Google’s aggressive business tactics or may be pleased to see a major rival distracted by an arduous legal battle. Those competitors, however, must also operate in whatever regulatory environment emerges.

While the investigation may take up to a year, the end result may not be any formal charges against Google.  The company’s success has come from offering high quality products that users prefer over rival services. The FTC’s task will be to determine whether consumers have been harmed by Google’s practices.

The larger issue here is the potential impact on America’s high-tech sector if a case against Google emerges from the investigation.  The technology sector is a bright spot in the US economy – and a hotbed of innovation and job creation. And so new regulatory mandates and protracted uncertainty in this space calls in to question potential affects on the digital economy.

As an innovator, Google is competing against companies such as Apple and Microsoft by developing its own online software tools, and of course it has entered the wireless handheld market in partnership with Verizon and by offering its Android operating system in a variety of handsets.  In the social media landscape, Google has launched its latest response to Facebook, “Google+”, trying to fill the market’s growing communication needs. The move provides additional “cloud” functionalities bringing together social networking capabilities with online as well as mobile computing for those with access to the smartphone app.  Not to be left out of the fun, this week, Facebook made its own “awesome” announcement by adding a Skype video-calling feature to its service.

The sector’s innovation and competition continues to benefit all Americans – particularly Latinos,  who have adopted and use social media and wireless tools at a higher rate than other Americans. While the lengthy investigation takes shape, it will be important to balance the inquiry, and any emerging regulatory activity, with potential unintended consequences.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

June 23, 2011

What The AT&T/T-Mobile Deal Really Means for Latinos

By: Jason Llorenz, Esq.

Over the past weeks and months, the debate has raged over the AT&T and T-Mobile merger, with supporters and detractors pushing their positions.  In the mix has been a great many voices — including advocates and organizations claiming to represent the interest of different groups. Below are four reasons why Latino community leaders support the transaction.

I. Latino Leaders Support this Transaction Because It Stands to Benefit the Community

For the Latino community, HTTP has expressed the opinion shared by many national Latino leaders, that this deal holds tremendous potential to serve the community well in ways that are important to their everyday lives.   HTTP happens to be in good company, joining with numerous national Latino organizations to support the deal including Hispanic Federation, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL); the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA); the US Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI), the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), LULAC, and ASPIRA, among many others.  Recently, the FCC received a letter from 14 leading organizations including those mentioned above, in support of the merger, asking the Commission to consider the Latino community’s particular interests in the transaction.  HTTP has also submitted its own letter to the FCC, highlighting the diverse range of Latino voices supporting the deal.

The reality is that the opposition is loud and will most likely become louder. We ask for proof that the “sky will fall” if this merger is approved – for facts that support that the American mobile industry will be taken decades back by the deal. Yet there has been no empirical evidence relayed to that effect.  In fact, they cannot offer such evidence. All evidence both anecdotal and factual points to the opposite arguments they are making.

It is clear the old and unsupported view of mergers doesn’t apply here.  The American telecommunications industry is both dynamic and rapidly expanding in a marketplace that drives a relentless pace for innovation that creates jobs. This holds no comparison to the mergers of old steel or car companies that took place in shrinking marketplaces that commanded massive layoffs.

II. The Merger Unleashes Investment and Expands Good Jobs

For its part, the AT&T/T-Mobile merger will expand union representation in the telecom industry with the support of labor unions.  As a result of the merger, AT&T will increase “what is already the biggest organized full-time work force of any broadband provider in the country”.

Increased investment and efficiencies in the telecom space will create job opportunities, rather than reduce them for Latinos.  Through infrastructure upgrades, increased construction and deployment projects and fostering online business opportunities, the merger will mean more jobs for everyone, including Latinos with the proposed additional $8 billion investment by AT&T for wireless deployment that might otherwise not occur.

III. The Evidence Doesn’t Support Price and Consolidation Concerns

Some have argued that the deal is “a horizontal acquisition” that would create a highly consolidated mobile telephone market.  It is true that the merger represents the numbers two and four telecom companies coming together, but the cost of obstruction may in fact be far more damaging than approving the deal.  Blocking the sale of T-Mobile doesn’t mean the status quo will continue — T-Mobile’s parent, Deutsche Telekrom has publicly stated they will no longer invest in the American company. In fact, it is entirely likely that American jobs, including many Latinos’ may be lost if the deal is blocked and the market faces the prospect of T-Mobile’s slow decline or purchase by another rival that does not have the resources to properly invest in the company’s success.

On the question of prices and choice, the same argument is brought out to scare us into believing that the merger will mean less competition, higher prices, fewer choices and poor customer service.  Yet the opposite is true, as Latinos have benefited from the effectiveness of the telecom industry that has seen these mergers in the past and they will continue to benefit as the largest growing consumer group of wireless services.

Dr. Juan Andrade, President & CEO of the US Hispanic Leadership Institute and one of only two Latino recipients in history of a Presidential Medal of Honor, recently went on the record with the FCC stating, “I am writing in support of the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile.  Like you, I too have heard that the merger will have a devastating impact on consumers, promote anti-competitive behavior, and result in higher prices; that the merger will be bad for business, bad for innovation and bad for workers.”

Dr Andrade concludes: “We’ve heard this all before – when SBC was acquiring Ameritech, when AT&T was merging with SBC, and so forth. And what have we seen? We’ve seen just the opposite.  The Federal Communications Commission’s own data show that these concerns proved unfounded as consumers benefited from tremendous innovation and competition in the wireless space, all while seeing wireless voice and data prices drop.“

IV. Increased Access to High-Speed Wireless is a Benefit to All Communities – especially the most hard to reach, Rural Latinos

The AT&T/T-Mobile deal will mean increased investment and an expansion of 4G LTE mobile broadband networks.  This will undoubtedly benefit Latino consumers, particularly rural, mobile communities who rely on mobile phones for communication, civic engagement and daily transactions more than any other demographic group. Just this week, the Obama administration called for additional investment in rural broadband . This transaction helps to accomplish that goal.

As avid consumers of mobile broadband services, the increased capacity represented by a post-merger AT&T being able to expand its deployment of 4G LTE technologies to more than 97 percent of the U.S. population will expand high-speed broadband to communities that would not have had an opportunity to be connected.  While mobile broadband is only one component of broadband adoption, it serves as an important on-ramp to the Internet for many Latinos who otherwise would not have access. As 4G services become available in these communities, it presents new opportunity to connect more households as a stepping-stone to achieve the goals of President Obama’s National Broadband Plan.

The merger will impact jobs, competition, choice, innovation, market expansion, and many other issues. The FCC should take the time to properly consider each of these matters.  At the end of the day however, the marketplace as well as the Latino community will benefit greatly by these two companies coming together and the opportunities that flow from the investments that come with it.

Jason Llorenz is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

June 14, 2011

Spectrum Bill Clears Senate Commerce Committee

By: Jason Llorenz, Esq.

Last week, the Senate Commerce Committee approved the appropriately named S. 911, the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act, which now moves to the full Senate for a vote.  The action by the Senate Committee was a first step toward the approval of a public safety bill that would let broadcasters auction off unused spectrum to help fund an interoperable public safety network, and provide telecommunications companies the opportunity to buy highly desired bandwidth.

By a vote of 21 to 4, the Commerce Committee sends the bill in what many see as a difficult road to make it to the President’s desk.  Working in the proponents’ favor, however, is the push to have the bill signed into law by the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks.  Public safety officials have called for an interoperable public safety network since the attacks exposed antiquated communications systems preventing police, fire, and rescue organizations from effectively working together.  Unfortunately, a lack of available spectrum coupled with high build-out costs has delayed implementation.

At the same time, the bill gives the Federal Communications Commission authority to hold incentive spectrum auctions.   A top priority for the agency, the voluntary auctions would repurpose TV airwaves to wireless companies. Strongly backed by tech and cell service companies, the cable and broadcast industries are taking a cautious view of the proposed legislation to ensure that their business models are not overly and negatively impacted.

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Allocate 10 megahertz of spectrum, known as the “D-block,” to public safety.

  • Give the FCC authority to create standards for public safety officials when they aren’t using the network to lease capacity to commercial carriers.

  • Give the FCC authority to carry out voluntary auctions of television spectrum. Known as “incentive auctions,” broadcasters who are willing to give up airwaves will receive a portion of the proceeds of commercial auctions.

  • Surplus revenue from spectrum auctions, estimated to be more than $10 billion, will be directed to the U.S. Treasury for deficit reduction

  • And also, direct the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology to conduct cutting edge research into transformative wireless technologies.

According to The Hill , “Opposition from House Energy and Commerce members in both parties could mean the bill faces an uphill path to final passage.  Nevertheless, Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee strongly support the central proposal in the bill.” Time will tell what the final legislation will look like if it survives the Senate floor and passage through the House.

Jason Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

June 10, 2011

Through the Murky Waters, a Look at Retransmission Consent: Free-Market Principles vs. Consumer Protection

By Jason Llorenz, HTTP Executive Director

Most consumers have no idea what retransmission consent is or what the complicated issues are surrounding the matter.  That is until they find themselves facing a blackout during the World Series, Super Bowl, NBA Playoffs, the Emmys, Oscars or Grammys.  This played out recently in markets such as New York City, where fans faced a cable blackout during last year’s World Series.

Essentially, retransmission consent is the option by television stations to sell the right to cable service providers to distribute broadcast programming over the cable networks, in lieu of “ must carry” license fees.  The long-standing negotiations “process” between cable providers and television broadcasters has resulted in an acrimonious environment with a multitude of players. Those players include television advocates arguing for the broadcasters’ right to operate and negotiate freely according to their terms, cable networks who state that strong-arm negotiations harm cable’s ability to provide consumers with quality service, the FCC as regulator and reluctant referee, Congress and the courts who each have weighed in to varying degrees, and finally the consumers caught squarely in the middle.

Cable operators argue that it is the consumer who is ultimately faced with the choice between losing the ability to watch programming they already paid for through their cable bill or pay costly out-of-pocket fees and possibly higher monthly charges to switch service providers who may not be their first choice or carry the programming they want – which is a special possibility with Spanish-language and Latino-targeted media.  While a current solution to stalemated negotiations is for consumers to be provided with notice of a possible blackout, cable operators vehemently state that this is not good enough, since consumers are left without cost protections when facing a service switch or blackout.

On the other hand, broadcast advocates state that the courts have ruled in their favor and they are well within their rights to be paid for rebroadcast of their signal.  Broadcasters argue that retransmission consent fees can mean the difference between a winning and a losing financial statement. And while cable operators decry the broadcasters’ brinksmanship — waiting until blockbuster programming, such as sports championships and entertainment awards, to increase their negotiating leverage, television stations and their supporters hold that they are operating within the boundaries of a functioning, free market.

In the meantime, cable operators are petitioning the FCC to weigh in and are calling for mandatory arbitration during heated negotiations to prevent future service blackouts.  The FCC for its part has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to review the matter but admitted that it “doesn’t have the authority to require broadcast television stations to provide their signals to pay TV providers or require binding arbitration.”

The fact remains that during recent negotiations, some cable operators have refused broadcasters’ proposals and either not carried the station or faced the possibility of a blackout.  This has proven to be disruptive to consumers who have little knowledge of all that takes place behind closed doors. It is unclear what the final outcome will be from the FCC action but the hope is that the Commission will retool the retransmission consent process so that communities are not held in the lurch.

Jason Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

June 3, 2011

Broadband and Mobile Innovation Impacting Digital Divide for Hispanics, Recent Studies Suggest

By Enrique Cortez

A spate of recent studies examining the societal impact of technological innovations provides a revealing look at how the Hispanic community is accessing the Internet.  The data, while uncovering the intriguing trend of Hispanics’ growing adoption rate of broadband and wireless technology-driven applications, raises the question of what this zealous embrace of online apps and mobile services by the Hispanic community means to the Digital Divide.

Two new studies from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project show Hispanics leading in Internet use for specific communication purposes.  The first survey illustrates that Hispanics were the biggest users of the Internet to make phone calls.  Of those surveyed, 27 percent of Hispanics reported using video telephone services such as Skype or Internet services such as a Vonage plan to make calls, compared with 21 percent of both blacks and whites.

Overall, the findings showed that nearly 20 percent of all American adults now use the Internet to make phone calls and 24 percent of Internet users have made phone calls online.  Interestingly, the survey also found that Internet phone users were more likely to be 18-29 years old, college educated and earning more than $75,000 a year.

“There is little doubt that the popularity of online phone calling has picked up over time for several reasons,” the report states. “It is free or cheaper than other types of phone calling; it is enabled on many handheld devices like smartphones and tablet computers; more and more meetings and classroom activities exploit online phone connections along with video capabilities; and more families and friends are building online calls into their communications streams.”

The second survey examines the mounting use of Twitter by adult Web users showing that Blacks and Hispanics continue to sign up for the micro-blogging site at higher rates than the general population.   The findings showed that 13 percent of online adults identify as Twitter users with 25 percent of Blacks and 19 percent of Hispanics on Twitter, compared to 9 percent of non-Hispanic whites. The study also showed that 95 percent of Twitter users own a mobile phone and half use the device to access the service.

As HTTP has previously discussed , recent surveys have shown Hispanics have benefited greatly from mobile technology and rely on their mobile phones as their primary connection to the Web at a far greater rate than the rest of the population. These reports have repeatedly shown that Hispanics are on the forefront of adopting the latest digital communications tools.

With 87 percent of Hispanics owning a cell phone and using it more often as well as utilizing more digital features than any other group, it is clear that further examination is needed on the impact mobile broadband is making on the Digital Divide.  If Hispanics are logging-on through their phones in more and more numbers, what can the Hispanic-serving community as well as private industry do to ensure that those areas of great concern – digital literacy, access, etc. – are addressed so that the Hispanic community takes full advantage of all the opportunities to be gained online?  Developing an answer to this question will take new thinking and strategies developed on the possibilities made real through mobile broadband platforms.

Enrique Cortez is President and Founder of Enitial Advanced Communications.

June 2, 2011

Latino Community Leaders Highlight Interests and Opportunities in AT&T Merger

By Jason Llorenz, Esq., HTTP Executive Director

As represented in the FCC docket, the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile has received substantive support from national Hispanic organizations including Hispanic Federation, the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL); the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA); the US Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI), the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), LULAC, and ASPIRA, among many others1.  14 leading organizations joined in writing the FCC in support of the merger, while highlighting, and asking the Commission to consider the Latino community’s particular interests in the transaction. HTTP also submitted its own letter to the FCC, which highlights the diverse range of Latino voices supporting the deal.

The national organizations, in completing a detailed analysis of this transaction, articulated several issues – including price and availability of service, commitment to digital literacy and adoption from a post merger AT&T, and careful consideration from the FCC in facilitating opportunities for Latino business participation in potential divestitures, as key importance to Latinos.

Many news stories have recently covered “large numbers of filings” in opposition to the merger, however, and notwithstanding those critical of the merger who took the time to constructively convey their concerns, a review of the docket shows a large portion of these comments are not substantive, and are merely generated by automated forms resulting from e-mail Acton Alerts pushed by “public interest groups.”

While all large mergers raise eyebrows, this transaction stands to increase, or create first-time access to high-speed mobile broadband technologies in some of the most underserved rural communities — and does so by creating jobs through investment in upgrading the combined T-Mobile network with $8 billion of investment over seven years. Those jobs are likely to be unionized — as AT&T is the only unionized workforce in the industry. T-Mobile not only does not have a path to developing next-generation, 4G/LTE technologies on its own, but its parent company, Deutsche Telecom has said publicly, it would no longer invest in T-Mobile . This could result in a slow failure of the company (T-Mobile has been slowly losing customers) or, just as destructive, a low-quality second-class network that does not evolve to make state of the art technology available to its customers.

The American telecommunications industry is among the most fiercely competitive, innovative business sectors in the world. While we all advocate for more and better service and continuing the trend of lower mobile prices, we should not let those who see the word “merger” as automatically anti-competitive or anti-consumer, scare us into thinking that AT&T would spend more than $39 billion to take us back to the 1980’s Zack Morris cell phone.

In a week where the PEW Center reports that Latinos are leading the rapidly growing group of Americans reporting use of the Internet to make phone calls — 27% of Latinos report using Internet call services — we are reminded that the facts and the history of innovation just do not bear out the scare-mongers message.

Jason A. Lorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).


1The following Hispanic organizations filed comments in favor of the transaction:  ASPIRA Association, Inc. (Jointly with: CNC – Cuban American National Council, Hispanic Federation, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, League of United Latin American Citizens, MANA- A Latina National Organization, National Conference of Puerto Rican Women, National Hispanic Council on Aging, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Puerto Rican Coalition, Ser Jobs for Progress National, Inc., US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, and the United States – Mexico Chamber of Commerce); Association of Washington State Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce, Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Cuban American National Council, Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Greater Tulsa Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Group of 56 Minority, Women, and Disabled Veteran Entrepreneurs, Hispanic 100, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Contra Costa County, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis, Hispanic Leadership Fund, Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber, Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership, Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Labor Council For Latin American Advancement, Central Florida Chapter, Latin Business Association, Latino Action Network, Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association (LISTA), Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, National Council of La Raza, National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, National Latina Business Women Association, National Puerto Rican Coalition, San Joaquin County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Spanish American Merchants Association, Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, The Hispanic Institute, The Latino Coalition, and the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

May 27, 2011

Congress Acts to Forestall “eTax” Confusion, Protect Innovation

By Jason Llorenz, HTTP Executive Director

A House subcommittee hearing on Monday sought to define limits on taxes for virtual goods and services on the Internet – the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law held its hearing on recently- introduced H.R. 1860, the bipartisan “Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act of 2011.”  The legislation now joins the Senate companion bill, S. 971, with the same name under consideration by the Senate Finance Committee.

Both measures aim to “promote neutrality, simplicity, and fairness in the taxation of digital goods and digital services.”  The idea is to protect consumers from multiple or discriminatory taxes on digital goods or digital services — and in the process maintain the ecommerce market’s open economy that allows innovation to thrive.

Many states struggling with ongoing budget crises have enacted or are considering a tax on downloads of music, ebooks, applications and more.  Without a national framework for their taxation, digital goods and services could now be subject to a myriad of different state and local taxes.

“While I understand why states and local governments are looking for new opportunities to bring in revenue, the fact of the matter is that taxes discourage both product usage and innovation,” Senator RonWyden (D-OR) stated upon introducing the legislation he co-authored. “It would be a mistake to crush the U.S. growing digital goods and services industry before it has an opportunity to reach its full potential.”  Wyden has long championed a free-market Internet, dating back to the Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998, which he also co-wrote.

Rob Atkinson, President of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, testified that, “with more than 20 states now taxing digital goods and services, national guidelines are needed so that state and local governments cannot tax consumers twice for the same purchase or impose higher tax rates for digital goods.”

While not seeking to compromise states’ rights – under the proposed legislations, states would still be free to tax digital goods under the proposed legislation – state and local tax jurisdictions would have to adhere to a common framework to prevent duplicative and overly burdensome levies.  Atkinson, along with James Eads, Jr., Director of Public Affairs for the tax services firm Ryan, LLC, served as witnesses in support of the bill.

In opposition to the bill was Russ Brubaker, National Tax Policy Advisor with the Washington State Department of Revenue.  Brubaker expressed concern that an unintended consequence of the bill will leave local businesses at a severe competitive disadvantage by giving multistate operations a potential loophole to “structure their operations to avoid tax“.

Notwithstanding, HTTP has repeatedly made note of recent studies showing Latinos over-indexing in their use of mobile broadband and the attendant digital applications.  If Congress fails to enact legislation that provides sensible guidelines to state and local entities, Latinos and other consumers will be the ones weighed down by the subsequent tax confusion.  Certainty and uniformity for taxation of digital goods and services is needed to ensure the continued growth of the digital economy and those who rely on the opportunities it provides.

Jason A. Lorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

May 25, 2011

THI REPORT: Latinos Going Mobile for More Reasons Than Expected

By Jason Llorenz, HTTP Executive Director

According to a new study, few groups in America have benefited from mobile technology – cellular telephone, SMS and mobile broadband service – more than the Hispanic community.  The report, “Connected Hispanics & Civic Engagement”, released by The Hispanic Institute (THI) examines the increased utilization of mobile technology amongst Hispanics and the reasons driving the growing adoption rate.

In addition to using mobile broadband for its entertainment value, the report asserts that Hispanics are combining their “greater reliance on handheld wireless devices” and their “dynamic and influential voice in American political and social discourse” to discover new means to participate in civic activities.  “The use of social networking sites by Hispanics in the U. S. has outpaced that of other groups,” the report states, as a way to stay connected to family and culture as well as to organize and mobilize people.

This increase in civic engagement driven by mobile technology is reflected in three key issues in the Hispanic community: immigration, education and voter registration/mobilization.  The report cites various examples of mobile-empowered advocacy and activism coalescing to organize Hispanics in addressing these issues.

“Mobile and wireless technology have helped narrow the digital divide for Hispanics,” stated Gus West, Board Chair of The Hispanic Institute. “Our new report illustrates how important mobile technology is to the Latino community — and how Hispanic consumers will use these services in the future.”

As THI’s report notes, the Pew Internet Center found that more than 87% of Hispanics owned a cell phone when compared to 80% of non-Hispanic whites. Additionally, Hispanics use their cell phones more often and use more features on their phones as compared to the overall American population.

Just as Hispanics have used mobile technology for political gain, the Hispanic community has embraced wireless services in part because of the high premium that the culture places on civic engagement and communication among neighbors.  Social media and the evolving “application culture” are providing new and sophisticated tools for the community to remain engaged on issues around the world and among family.

Jason A. Lorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

May 25, 2011

In This Digital Economy, Latinos Have the Most to Lose

(blog originally appeared as Guest Voz in )

By Jason A. Llorenz, Esq.

Today’s economy has become so intertwined with the internet and computers that it stands to reason that anyone lacking comfort in navigating cyberspace or otherwise does not have the skills to operate a computer and leverage digital tools is at a real disadvantage in this increasingly technical job market.

However, as today’s Guest Voz writer, Jason A. Llorenz, executive director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership reveals, Latinos are at much greater risk of losing out in this digital economy than other populations.

* * * *

The slowly recovering American economy – still shaky from rising fuel prices and an uncertain real estate market – has meant extended hard times for many Americans. The national unemployment rate in March was 8.8 percent, yet the rate for Hispanics was 11.3 percent – about 43 percent higher than the 7.9 percent unemployment rate among whites, according to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics.

One key to long-term economic recovery and ameliorating the disproportionate jobless rates is minority entrepreneurship. To support it, we need policies that promote digital skills and encourage access to high speed Internet for diverse communities.

Broadband is an indispensable tool for small businesses, including minority-run businesses. Small businesses account for over 60 percent of all new jobs, and minority-owned firms are growing four times faster than all U.S. firms.

Small- and medium-sized businesses depend more than larger ones on mobile broadband. Broadband enables these businesses “more affordable access to job training for employees, improved access to suppliers, and faster outreach to potential and actual consumers through websites, emails, and e-commerce,” according to Lawrence Strickland of the US Commerce Department.

Ultimately, policymakers and stakeholders must confront how to grow a skilled workforce and build up the technology infrastructure to support economic growth and innovation. Latinos, the fastest-growing community in the country, must not only have access to the high-speed Internet, but must be educated to leverage it for business, education and life functions.

Hispanics’ relationship with the Internet and digital skills is complex. According to a report by Shapiro and Hassett: “80% of Latinos view the Internet as important for economic opportunity and ‘keeping up with the times,’ compared to 65% of Whites.”

Despite this, Latinos lag in adopting this vital resource – only 45 percent have home broadband access, compared to 52 percent of African Americans and 65 percent of whites. According to the FCC, only 20 percent of Spanish-dominant Latinos adopted home broadband. Survey participants cited lack of value of the Internet and price as reasons for not adopting.

Yet the harm to communities on the wrong side of the digital divide remains clear. The skillset needed for the modern workforce requires the ability to use broadband and digital applications to network, secure employment and keep job skills current.

The digital economy means digital skills are not only a matter of economic necessity, but survival in the globally connected and competitive marketplace. With public policies that favor broadband access and the expansion of digital skills, small businesses will prosper and strengthen the communities they serve.

The challenges are real and so is the potential to ensure our nation’s continued prosperity. Ultimately, policymakers and businesses leaders must recognize the importance of policies that support digital literacy to fuel innovation and drive the recovery that we expect for America.

Jason Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of HTTP (The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership).

May 19, 2011

The Hill Moves to Protect Ideas, Innovation Online

— by Jason A. Llorenz, Esq., HTTP Executive Director

Last week, the “PROTECT IP ACT”, was introduced by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), with original co-sponsors including Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Herb Kohl (D-WI), among others. With this act, Congress is moving to stop sophisticated cyber criminals and make the Internet marketplace safer by cleaning up the online marketplace and protecting consumers from unsafe products.

In today’s world, ideas take form as businesses and new marketplaces. That economic activity is inevitably shifting from the physical to the digital world, as communities engage in an economy more and more housed and disseminated in the online sphere, requiring new protections for businesses and customers.

Latino entrepreneurship continues to grow faster than the rest of America – as entrepreneurs at all levels figure out how to grow businesses of all types. Without question, Hispanic digital entrepreneurship will grow over time, as this community contributes to the apps, downloads and digital solutions that make up a more than $180 billion dollar market today.

It is surprising to learn, however, that protections for consumers and businesses that exist in the physical space are not currently extended to the digital space. While the Internet is instrumental in connecting consumers with businesses, it also connects consumers with criminals dedicated to trademark counterfeiting and copyright piracy. Criminals, behind the front of their rogue websites, dupe consumers into purchasing counterfeit products or clicking on seemingly free pirated content, which are not only illegal, but oftentimes unsafe. These websites not only deceive consumers, but they also undermine the most essential components of the American economy.

Small, innovative businesses are hurt the most by the relative ease with which profiteers establish websites that rip off their products. When businesses lose the ability to innovate, they also lose the incentive to employ. 2.5 million jobs across the G-20 economies have been lost to counterfeiting and piracy in the aftermath of the explosive growth of rogue websites. In the U.S. alone, an incredible 19 million jobs are at risk if these websites go unchecked.

The purveyors of these websites, furthermore, contribute nothing to the growth and health of the American economy. Our economies lose $135 billion annually to online IP-infringement because rogue site operators do not pay taxes, they do not innovate, and they do not follow the law.

Google has vowed to fight such legislation, even if passed.

Hispanics and other cost-sensitive communities are more vulnerable to loss from cyber-crime, identity theft and other online losses purveyed by bad actors online, making this legislation, and the issue of online piracy and safety of particular interest to this community.

Jason Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of HTTP (The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership).

May 9, 2011

Reforming the Universal Service Fund part 2: Comments Needed For Adapting Lifeline and LinkUp to Serve Universal Broadband.

By Jason A. Llorenz, Esq., HTTP Executive Director, and Enrique Cortez, President, Enitial Advanced Communications.

As Facebook famously penned, so the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is now asking, “What’s on your mind?”

The FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) issued in early March opened the public comment period for the community at large to provide recommendations on how best to reform the Universal Service Fund’s Low Income programs, Lifeline and LinkUp. Community organizations, consumer advocacy groups, telecom companies, state government agencies, elected officials and private citizens have submitted over 130 comments to the FCC.

As previously published by HTTP, the FCC hopes to reform the Lifeline and LinkUp programs – designed to keep low-income households connected to basic telephone service through subsidized discounts – to prevent waste, fraud and abuse as well as to achieve the goal of universal broadband set out by the Obama Administration in the National Broadband Plan. In order to achieve this, the NPRM provides insight into the philosophical discussion behind the evaluation of a public assistance program.

“In light of the marketplace changes, it is also an appropriate time to evaluate the definition of ‘Lifeline’ to ensure it is keeping pace with the basic connectivity needs of low-income consumers,” the FCC states in the NPRM to begin its assessment process. “We question whether Lifeline should continue to be defined as ‘basic local service.’ As noted, distinctions between local and long distance calling are becoming irrelevant in light of flat rate service offerings that do not distinguish between local and toll calls. Is the ‘local’ qualifier outdated in light of marketplace changes? How should we define ‘basic’ voice telephony for purposes of the Lifeline and LinkUp programs?”

These questions go to the heart of what the FCC sees as an outdated and stagnant federal program in the midst of an evolving and fast-paced technological landscape. However, a search of FCC Proceeding Number 11-42 reveals that there are many submitted comments that disagree with the FCC’s appraisal of Lifeline and LinkUp as well as those that agree that wholesale change is needed.

Several minority-serving and advocacy organizations have provided their recommendations to the FCC including the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC), The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. Amongst its many suggestions, MMTC “urges the Commission to extend Lifeline-Linkup support to broadband,” joining the multitude of groups calling for universal broadband support.

In terms of broadband adoption, the NPRM outlines the problem:

“Closing the broadband adoption gap may be more difficult than closing the gap in telephone penetration because the barriers to broadband adoption are more complex. In addition to the cost of service and the cost of acquiring a computer or other Internet-access device, which some research suggests may be the leading barrier to adoption, the National Broadband Plan noted that almost two-thirds of non-adopters cite another reason, such as lack of digital skills, as the main reason for not adopting broadband at home. In contrast, consumers generally do not need any special skills to understand how to make a phone call; a telephone is often much less expensive than a computer, laptop, or other Internet access device; and monthly subscription fees for basic telephone service may be less than the fees for broadband.”

“Research suggests that increasing broadband adoption could significantly increase national productivity and growth. Nearly 100 million Americans have not adopted broadband, and there is evidence that adoption is growing slowly. Cost appears to be the leading obstacle to low-income Americans adopting broadband; the lack of digital literacy is another major factor.”

The solution:

“Closing the adoption gap and accelerating broadband adoption, particularly among low-income Americans, will require significant effort, primarily by the private sector. But the Lifeline/LinkUp program may be able to play an important if limited role in this effort, by enabling public-private partnerships to help tackle our national adoption challenge. Utilizing Lifeline/LinkUp to reduce the cost of broadband for low-income Americans could help increase broadband adoption.”

While the initial commentary phase has ended, the FCC is still receiving comments on specific sections of the NPRM and encourages all interested parties to continue to provide their proposals – according to an FCC spokesperson. As the USF’s Low Income programs serve many families within our community, the unique perspective imparted by Latino organizations is especially needed. Comments may be filed Here or Here.

Jason Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of HTTP (The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership). Enrique Cortez is President and Founder, Enitial Advanced Communications.

May 6, 2011

Capitol Hill Still Bustling Over Privacy, Security

Since HTTP last covered cybersecurity, several technology giants have had to deal with the embarrassing aftermath of security failures exposing network weaknesses as well as consumers’ private data.   Two of the most significant missteps came from Apple and Sony. The popular mobile device, the iPhone, was discovered to have a flaw that allowed Apple to keep a log of the location of millions of users.  The Sony online gaming platform, the Playstation Network, was hacked compromising millions of customer accounts.

Congress responded by calling for investigations and hearings into the issues at hand.  The Senate Judiciary Privacy Subcommittee announced an upcoming hearing to focus on mobile privacy issues.  The key question for Subcommittee Chairman Al Franken (D-MN) was to determine “if Federal law protecting consumer privacy –particularly when it relates to mobile devices like smartphones and tablets –is keeping pace with advances in technology.”

In May, the Senate Commerce Committee will also be holding a mobile privacy hearing to investigate the matter of iPhones tracking and storing a user’s personal information and whereabouts.  Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) expressed his concern of how the mobile marketplace “collects and uses a wide range of personal information — often with inadequate or untimely disclosure.”

Likewise, Reps. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Joe Barton (R-TX), Co-Chairmen of the House Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus sent letters to Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon and AT&T asking the wireless companies to disclose how each collects and stores user location data.  The inquiry was prompted by a March 26th story in the New York Times, which reported that the German mobile provider Deutsche Telekom tracked the locations of its users.

Clearly the issues of privacy and security will continue to be key concerns for Congress and the Obama Administration.  For consumers in the new mobile democracy, the question becomes how much privacy should be given up in exchange for use of the newest and most innovative applications.

By Enrique Cortez, President and Founder, Enitial Advanced Communications.

May 5, 2011

Reform the Rural Broadband Loan Program to Serve Rural Needs

By Jason Llorenz, HTTP Executive Director

As the Washington budget-cutting dialogue continues, one would hope both political parties can at least agree on one essential premise: if we are going to invest federal money in a program, that money ought to go toward its intended purpose.  Programs that don’t do what is intended need to be reformed.

A case in point is the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service, whose Farm Bill-funded Broadband Loan program has come under fire for failing its core mission.  This program is supposed to provide loans, over $300 million authorized this year alone, to build out broadband service in under-served and rural areas. But advocates and analysts say the loans have been misdirected to non-rural areas that already have a broadband provider – as illustrated by a report from the Department’s Inspector General.

HTTP has been a longtime advocate for bridging the digital divide in access, skills and adoption that is concerning for the Hispanic community.  It’s a fact that Hispanics lag behind other minority groups in broadband adoption, particularly among non-English speakers.  It’s also a fact that the last Census showed a doubling of the Hispanic population in rural areas.  No longer an urban-only population, Hispanics are dispersed and growing in population in rural and ex-urban communities across America. These growing communities uniquely stand to benefit if the Farm Bill Broadband Loan Program is done right, or will be disadvantaged if these funds are misappropriated.

It shouldn’t be difficult to agree that a program for under-served rural areas should go to areas that are underserved and rural.  And, if there are obstacles to providing that funding, we should redirect our resources to computer literacy where it is needed, instead of using limited resources where there is less value to be gained.

Jason A. Lorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

May 4, 2011

Feds Must Ensure Broadband for All

By Jason Llorenz, HTTP Executive Director

May 4, 2011

(op-ed originally appears in The Long Island Business News)

The recent announcement from the US Census indicates that America is more diverse than ever, with record numbers of minorities in communities across our country.  The fastest growing demographic in 2010 was Hispanics, who are continuing their important and growing contributions to American society.

Our multicultural society means that communication, and the tools that we use to connect online, are becoming increasingly important areas of policy consideration for lawmakers in Washington.  Broadband and wireless technology has crossed racial and cultural divides, expanding job markets, connecting families around the world, and improving healthcare and education in underserved areas.

As Hispanic business owners and national policy leaders gathered for an annual conference in Washington, there were countless policy issues addressed, but one of the most prominent topics was the need to spur new job growth in Hispanic communities.  Specifically, a portion of the conference was dedicated to the technology and broadband concerns among business owners and Hispanic policy makers – and the growing need to address these remaining gaps in adoption rates for Hispanics.

When lawmakers created the Telecom Act of 1996, the internet was in its infancy, and importantly, was also largely a nonessential communication tool that connected basic computer systems.  Today, the internet is vital to virtually every aspect of life, including the health and growth of virtually our entire economy. The ability to create jobs, increase revenue and find new customers are largely dependant on the availability of high-speed internet, both wire line and wireless.

The good news is that since 2003, broadband providers have invested $200 billion to activate and deploy broadband networks across the country. Many of these new regions are in urban or unreached rural areas, ensuring that today some 92 percent of homes in America have access to broadband internet access.

Economists have noted that these investments in the broadband sector have created 400,000 jobs, and in the coming years, experts expect roughly $200 billion in new investment – creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs. Americans from all backgrounds, including Hispanics, have benefited from this wave of new high-paying, long-term jobs.

The problem is that despite this boom in technology and the strong ties to our economic growth, the laws regulating this technology haven’t changed.  We still have outdated taxes and burdensome polices that stand in the way of further growth. Taxes on your cell phone bill, for example, are being levied at a widely varying, and many times, high tax rates – in some cases as high as 16%. And taxes on “digital goods”, such as iTunes and downloaded software, are often double and triple taxed by multiple states.

Policy makers and business leaders from around the country are beginning to recognize the importance of a surge in minority-owned high tech small businesses.  But with a policy framework from the mid-1990’s, our regulations and policies are painfully outdated and are hindering our ability to innovate and expand.

The more that Washington policy makers can do to ensure new pro-growth policies in complex areas like spectrum and digital goods, the more we can ensure a prosperous high-tech future for Hispanics and all Americans.

Jason A. Lorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

April 21, 2011

Congress, Administration Abuzz About Privacy and Identity Security

By Jason Llorenz, Esq.

The Epsilon data breach is the latest high-profile security failure driving policy makers to address the issues of online privacy and identify security.  Since the beginning of the year, the Administration and Congress have taken action on these issues.

Most recently, the White House recognized the growing need to ensure the integrity of the individual American’s online identity and to fix the broken process of online identification for users that has come to be described as “increasingly cumbersome and complex.”  Last week, the Obama Administration held an event at the US Chamber of Commerce to reveal its strategy to improve the security of online transactions.

The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace plan hopes to create an “identity ecosystem” that provides digital identity credentials and allows users to log into any website with that credential.  This colossal task will take the cooperation of both the public and private sectors to find an approach that solves problems rather than causes more of them – a real possibility given the ever-changing environment of the digital world and the creativity of internet criminals who are on constant lookout to exploit security weaknesses.

In a prepared statement announcing the initiative, President Obama said: “The Internet has transformed how we communicate and do business, opening up markets, and connecting our society as never before.  But it has also led to new challenges, like online fraud and identity theft, that harm consumers and cost billions of dollars each year.”

While still years away from consumer use, the plan relies on market-driven solutions with the government bringing businesses together to create the system.  The NSTIC report envisions a future with smart cards, cell phones, USB security sticks, and similar applications solving our identification needs.

The program will be coordinated by a Commerce Department agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which has been setting national standards since 1901.  NIST will coordinate the new strategy with the business leaders working to ensure consumer privacy. Public meetings on NSTIC begin in June, and funding for pilot projects by 2012.

The NSTIC plan seems to go hand in hand with the National Broadband Plan’s focus on bringing Americans universal Internet coverage.  The NSTIC proposes a system to create basic tools needed for online commerce to thrive just as universal broadband is seen as a prerequisite for achieving a 21st Century economy and ensuring our global competitiveness.  As the NSTIC report states: “A secure cyberspace is critical to our prosperity.”

On Capitol Hill, four major bills were introduced from Members of both parties and chambers.  

TheWashington Post provided a concise summary of the separate proposals:

In February, Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) each introduced privacy legislation.  Earlier this week, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Reps. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) offered privacy bills for each chamber.

The privacy bills have some key differences. Stearns’s bill promotes industry self-regulation and requires companies to notify consumers about privacy policies and data use.  The bill from Kerry and McCain encourages self-regulation but also requires an opt-in measure to share sensitive personal information, or information that could harm a person if released, depending on the situation.

Rush’s reintroduced bill requires companies to provide an opt-out option before they can share data with other companies.  Speier’s privacy package includes the only proposed legislation with a do-not-track measure; the other bill is aimed at protecting financial information.

Privacy and security are of even more acute importance to Latinos, the poor, and more vulnerable emerging online users, who are not only lagging in digital skills, but also tend to have fewer protections from loss of wealth or credit standing when victimized online.  The key for all consumers will be the development of a system that drives confidence in a secure environment that facilitates business, learning and life online.

Jason Llorenz is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership

April 18, 2011

FCC Chairman’s Case to Broadcasters on Spectrum Realignment

by Jason Llorenz, Esq. and Enrique Cortez

Last week, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski provided the keynote to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual convention in Las Vegas.  His message was clear: the growing demand for mobile broadband is not going away and voluntary incentive options is key to solving the looming spectrum crisis.

Chairman Genachowski faced an apprehensive crowd of television broadcasters, some of whom have disputed the need for spectrum reallocation by arguing that there is no spectrum crunch or that realignment will be too disruptive for broadcasting and endanger their business.  His remarks were intended to ease their anxiety while reassuring them that auctions were coming.

“I’m confident that, working together, we can resolve relocation issues,” remarked Genachowski, speaking of minimizing disruption to broadcasters and consumers once auctions have taken place and a change in frequency is necessitated.  “I’m committed to working with [broadcasters] on this, as well as being a resource to Congress.”

In his statements, Genachowski made it apparent that quibbling over disproven arguments would lead to delays and that would hurt American competitiveness in the mobile broadband space as well as prove frustrating for consumers who are spectrum-hungry.  By moving forward with voluntary incentive auctions, he maintained that spectrum can go where it is most needed and market-driven forces would lead to investment and innovation.

Genachowski went on to say that incentive auctions would “raise billions of dollars for the Treasury – with serious projections of near $30 billion – that can be put toward deficit reduction and other important uses, like public safety, R&D and broadband connectivity in rural areas.”

Mobile broadband, propelled by spectrum reallocation, is key to all sectors of the economy as well as providing a valuable resource for education and healthcare.   Not only has the FCC called for incentive auctions but leading economists and a broad range of business leaders from all industries have called on Congress to give the FCC the authority it needs to hold these auctions.  All while protecting integrity of the broadcast business model.

For Latinos – who have adopted mobile broadband in droves – the cost of a prolonged spectrum crunch due to inaction is equally if not more severe than for the rest of the country.

To put it bluntly, the FCC Chairman simply stated: “If we wait until there’s a crisis to reallocate spectrum, we’ll have waited too long.”

This week, The Federal Communications Commission granted broadcasters a seven-day extension on the spectrum reassignment docket, No. 10-23.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership, a coalition of more that twenty national Hispanic serving organizations seeking to increase awareness of technology and telecommunications policy on the US Hispanic community.

Enrique Cortez is Founder and President, Enitial Advanced Communications.

April 14, 2011

The White House Weighs in on Spectrum, Wireless Innovation

By Jason Llorenz, Esq.

April 8, 2011

On April 6th, the White House held an event focused on the need for Congress to grant the FCC authority to proceed quickly with voluntary incentive auctions of unused or inefficiently used spectrum.  FCC chairman Julius Genachowski called for quick action, noting that delays will mean slowed innovation and higher costs for Americans.

“There’s no questioning the incredible opportunity that mobile broadband presents — opportunity to spur economic growth, create jobs, enhance our global competitiveness, and improve our quality of life,” he said.

Many have called for spectrum to be freed up from inefficient broadcast usage — a holdover from spectrum allocations that occurred before the explosion of wireless Internet. By some estimations, moving spectrum to wireless purposes may offer a 10-fold  increase in value and serve many more than current use. The added benefit will be the ability to raise nearly $28 billion from the air wave auction to reduce the deficit as well as fund wireless broadband, rural expansion and an emergency public safety network.

Requiring Congressional approval, the plan would be for a TV station to voluntarily agree to have some or all of its frequencies auctioned to mobile carriers in exchange for a cut of the proceeds.  The FCC believes it can get about 120MHz – from about 300MHz of spectrum under total broadcasting licenses – of spectrum from TV broadcasters.

At the Old Executive Office Building event, over 100 economists signed onto a letter in support of auctions as the most efficient means of freeing up spectrum for wireless broadband.  Wireless high-speed Internet expansion provides America with an economic opportunity to create jobs and continue to compete globally.

However, not everyone agrees. Broadcasters have expressed apprehension.  Some have argued that the AT&T/T-Mobile deal reduces the overall market demand for spectrum in an environment where recent broadband allocations to wireless have yet to be rolled out.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to argue with projections of the growing need for wireless broadband.  America’s growing reliance on mobile technology and spectrum-hungry devices such as smart phones and tablets, and the continuing trend of lower use of spectrum for broadcast, adds up to an eventual spectrum crunch and swaths of underutilized spectrum if nothing is done to address the issue.

For Latinos, a group that has rapidly adopting mobile technology, the FCC’s spectrum plan is key to ensuring ongoing access to increasingly high-quality service and competitive prices. Wireless broadband is considered an on-ramp to digital literacy and broadband adoption for Latinos, who rely on wireless broadband for more functions that other American communities because of accessibility, cost, and several other factors..

March 29, 2011

Broadband In the Age of Human Rights and Global Crises

— by Jason Llorenz, Esq. And Enrique Cortez

As the heat of summer, 2005 was sinking deeper over the Mississippi Delta, the after effects of Hurricane Katrina gave the world a clear and tragic understanding of the need for dependable and accessible communication.  Among the many lessons Katrina taught us was that the lack of mobile communication could be an overwhelming barrier to emergency personnel in providing timely responses to life-threatening emergencies and crises.

Nearly six years later, social media has filled the gap in an extraordinary fashion. During the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the Internet helped family members find lost relatives. Stories emerging from global  political crisis and natural disasters amaze us with the power that Facebook, Twitter and social media sites, empowered by mobile broadband, offer in times of emergency.

The “Technology Plays Hero” headlines have come from all over the globe: In addition to the current crisis in Japan , Chile, Haiti,Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, and others have had been in the headlines for natural disasters and turmoil. Social media, driven by the ubiquity of broadband has changed the way the world talks to each other during crises.

But the technology that empowers is also threatened in many places. As the world recently witnessed, Egypt showed us (again) how fragile digital accessibility can be.  Before President Hosni Mubarak resigned, his government’s response to violent political protests was to abruptly shut down the Internet in an effort to stop activists from using mobile phones and cyber technology to organize — thereby preventing the public from communicating with the outside world.  Facebook, Twitter, cell phone text messages and Blackberry Messenger services were all interrupted.

Civil unrest in Tunisia earlier this year was met with limited censorship of certain sites, and similar unrest in Iran in 2009 resulted in substantial throttling of Internet traffic. In each of these instances, Twitter and other online communications platforms served as the most trustworthy source of on-the-ground information from and between citizens and journalists alike. While Bloggers, Internet activists, and Facebook users may have helped push a regime out of power, Egypt’s response was a great deal more heavy-handed — the sort of censorship that flies in the face of today’s open, and uncensored Internet in the US.

The power of the Internet and mobile broadband is clear to those leaders in Egypt – as well as Tunisia and Iran before them – who feared the free flow of information during times of civic unrest.

In this digital age, these incidents underscore the importance of broadband and digital literacy for all communities here in the U.S. – where the Internet now touches every aspect of American life. And they stand as illustrations of the power to be wielded by communities who fully engage with technology.

Jason Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director, The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).

Enrique Cortez is President and Founder, Enital Advanced Communications.

March 20, 2011

ATT/T-Mobile Merger: a Responsible Corp Seeks Growth

AT&T announced today its plans to acquire T-Mobile USA in a $39 billion dollar deal that would bring true mobile 4G LTE to millions of T-Mobile customers or 95% of America through AT&T’s upgrades of the T-Mobile network. This expands AT&T’s operations – including AT&T’s commitments to expand as a union workforce. CWA has already come out in support of the deal, saying it will lead to faster and more widespread broadband.

The DOJ and the FCC will scrutinize the deal. AT&T’s record of corporate citizenship, industry-leading supplier diversity and union workforce will undoubtedly benefit the company in seeking approval. The deal helps to alleviate the spectrum crunch that threatens the mobile services of AT&T, T-Mobile and the entire wireless industry.

Latino community interests are especially high in this deal.  Latinos have adopted wireless in greater numbers than the rest of America, and they also rely on those mobile devices to do more things. 51% of Hispanics and 46% of Blacks use their phones to access the Internet, compared with 33% of whites, according to a July 2010 Pew poll. 47% percent of Latinos and 41% of blacks use their phones for e-mail, compared with 30% of whites. The figures for using social media like Facebook via phone were 36% for Latinos, 33% for blacks and 19% for whites. And so if the deal delivers more widely available, higher-quality mobile services and continues to drive down prices through competition, this will be good for Latinos.

March 4, 2011

Reforming the Universal Service Fund: Adapting Lifeline and LinkUp to Serve Universal Broadband, Part 1

The ongoing conversation about reform of the Universal Service Fund includes many proposals and evolving ideas for making the program more efficient and aligned with 21st Century goals.  Recent activity and dialogue has focused on the USF’s Low Income programs, Lifeline and LinkUp. Earlier this week, former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) official Blair Levin, who is widely credited for authoring the National Broadband Plan, spoke to the Joint Center on Political and Economic Studies disavowing a part of that plan, especially proposals for these low-income programs, as flawed.

Universal Service has been central to the FCC’s goal of making vital communications services accessible to all Americans.  Accordingly, the FCC believes that the USF is key to ensuring universal access to high-speed Internet.

For communities of color and many Latino families who live on limited means, the USF Low Income programs have served as a true lifeline, providing basic telephone service and the ability to stay connected – with schools, doctors, emergency services, family and loved ones. Many expect USF reform to increase adoption rates for these historically underutilized programs – today, only “7 million of an estimated 24.5 million eligible households (less than 29 percent) participated in Lifeline in 2008”.

Despite its successes, policymakers, industry and advocates widely agree that USF has become wasteful and inefficient.  The Fund is openly criticized for such waste as providing more than $20,000 a year for a single household’s phone service in some areas, while providing little or no support in other communities that lack broadband.

On Thursday, the FCC voted to launch a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that asks for public comments on options for reforming the Lifeline and LinkUp programs to include broadband. The NPRM also seeks comment on ways to eliminate waste and abuse in the programs, and asks if the overall budget should be capped.  The impact and process of the FCC’s NPRM will be explored in a forthcoming blog.

Highlighting the need for reform, Mr. Levin’s comments frame the political realities of today’s Washington where all spending is under scrutiny.

Adding to the cacophony of voices calling for reform, Craig Settles, a broadband industry analyst, recently debated Mr. Levin and wrote about how best to update the Low Cost program.  In consensus with Levin, Mr. Settles argues that Lifeline and LinkUp must be scrapped and recreated to exclusively serve universal broadband.

In order to do more with the same pot of USF dollars, Settles believes the FCC must transform Lifeline and LinkUp into a tool that its consumers can use to aspire to something beyond the already ubiquitous telephone.  In a conversation with HTTP, Mr. Settles expressed his frustration with public assistance programs and with Lifeline in particular that only serves a basic need and asks for nothing in return.

“We don’t have an Independence Day built into these programs,” stated Settles, meaning that programs such as Lifeline and LinkUp “do not have a set date when users can free themselves because they no longer need the program”.

This can be achieved by designing what Settles calls “Catapult, a program to launch low-income people onto a path to transform themselves from mere consumers of technology to contributors to community economic growth”, through “community-owned broadband infrastructure… combined with public, nonprofit and corporate programs”.

In his remarks, Levin provided a four-part plan to accomplish much of what he and Settles agree must be done with repurposed Lifeline and Linkup funds.  His plan describes the main problem with the National Broadband Plan’s current proposals, which is based on “yesterday’s logic, based on the phone world, [that was] about availability of service, not use of service…  With broadband, we care about use, for which availability is a pre-requisite, but not the ultimate purpose. As the National Broadband Plan noted, ‘promoting access and adoption are necessary steps, but utilization is the goal’”.

The new proposal by Levin calls for (1) an Executive Order to move most if not all government operations to paperless, thereby driving the overall consumer need for broadband, (2) Multi-source Mini Vouchers to secure lower prices and increased choice for low income consumers, (3) a focused training effort until the issues of digital literacy, search literacy and basic word literacy are overcome for the purposes of universal broadband, and finally (4) Reverse Auctions and Demand Aggregations, a volume discount in the spirit of a government-run Groupon whereby “in any given region, cable, telecoms and potentially wireless–if speeds are sufficient–would compete through a reverse auction to offer a low cost option that any person eligible for low-income assistance would have an opportunity to purchase.”

Latino-serving institutions and advocates will have an important role in the debate, as a voice for the needs of Latino families who will directly benefit from the final broadband and USF reform plans. Important questions for the Latino community remain — including the actual process of transitioning Lifeline and LinkUp from voice to broadband service while ensuring already vulnerable constituents do not lose services on which they rely. For its part, HTTP will continue to seek suitable answers to these questions for Latino stakeholders.

By Jason A. Llorenz, Esq., HTTP Executive Director, and Enrique Cortez, President, Enitial Advanced Communications.

February 9, 2011

Mobile Phone Bills and Regulation: A Brief Cost-Benefit Analysis

— by Jason Llorenz

It should come as no surprise to HTTP members that the Hispanic community is adopting wireless technology and mobile broadband at a tremendous rate, with 87 percent of English speaking Hispanic Americans owning a mobile phone, according to the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project’s Mobile Access 2010 report.

The main reason for this high rate of adoption is the attractive pricing of mobile phone voice and data plans.  Mobile phones have become a convenient and cost-effective alternative to maintaining a home phone and internet connection, and mobile broadband continues to enable increasingly active Hispanics to connect to the internet no matter where they are.

However, there are concerns that the cost-effectiveness of the mobile-only option could be diminished by proposed “bill shock” regulations, if the regulations result in price hikes in mobile phone and data plans  — effectively driving many Hispanics off-line and serve as a deterrent against signing up for or continuing mobile service.

For a more detailed discussion of the effects of the FCC’s proposed regulations on the Hispanic community, read the reply comments on this matter filed by The Hispanic Institute.  For a succinct summary of the issue please read on.

According to The Hispanic Institute, what the FCC would like to do is to provide protections for the estimated one percent of Americans, according to the Nielsen Company, that experience a significant unexpected voice or data overage in a given year.  But these protections must be implemented in a way that would not have the effect of raising costs and increasing the bills of mobile consumers – ultimately placing more pressure on the family budgets of already price-sensitive communities for whom cost is a major factor in technology adoption.

In addition to the cost concerns, there may be some detriments to implementing some of the proposed solutions. For example, one of the FCC’s proposals does little to address the problem of bill overages.  The FCC’s proposal calls for a “circuit breaker” provision that cuts off phone service when a person’s limit has been exceeded. This provision would have an especially devastating impact on those who are totally reliant on their mobile devices for all forms of communication. There must be a middle ground that maintains service while also holding unexpected costs down.

HTTP echoes the Hispanic Institute in calling for a low cost to families, high benefit proposal that focuses on efforts to educate mobile consumers in using the tools available to them in managing their usage and avoiding unexpected bills.  We look forward to working with the FCC on devising strategies to educate and build consumer awareness of the various usage management options available. We believe that this path will do more to prevent unintended overages and empower Hispanics and other communities in a mobile world.

February 4, 2011

Latino Innovation and the President’s State of the Union

Tuesday’s State of the Union address, and the policies it outlined were encouraging for many reasons — , most especially those that reaffirm a commitment to ensuring the dreams of all our communities are given the chance to be fulfilled.

While the President touched on a number of important goals for America, lets like to take a moment to highlight his comments to technology and innovation. , HTTP members have long held that, while technological advancements are important in their own right, achieving key milestones in broadband adoption, wireless connectivity and technological innovation are imperative to facilitating progress toward our nation’s larger economic and social policy goals.

Technology, particularly broadband technology, is a platform for participation that enables communities and leaders throughout our country, and across borders, throughout the world, to work together on solutions to challenges in healthcare, education, civic engagement and economic opportunity.  From telemedicine and remote health monitoring to distance learning and online classes, to worker retraining and online employment resources, broadband technology connects individuals and communities to valuable resources.

And, while many in our nation have been able to access the numerous life-changing benefits that broadband provides, there are still countless others that remain unconnected to this critical technology. According to research done by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, currently only 64 percent of Hispanic Americans (both English- and Spanish-speaking) use the Internet.  Of that 64 percent, only 47 percent have home broadband access. However, it is important to also note that Hispanic Americans are leading their peers in the usage of mobile broadband. In fact, 62 percent of Hispanic Americans (both English- and Spanish-speaking) are using mobile devices to connect to the Internet wirelessly.

As President Obama touched on during his State of the Union address,

“…this isn’t about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls.  It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age.  It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world.  It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.”

HTTP members will reaffirm support for, and commitment to President Obama, his Administration and our congressional leaders as they work to achieve the ambitious but realistic goal of deploying high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of Americans.  HTTP recognizes it will require the dedication and cooperation of both private and public stakeholders as we work to free up more spectrum, increase adoption and digital literacy and continue next-generation network deployment. We are optimistic about this aspiration and look forward to building upon the long-standing tradition of American exceptionalism in technology and innovation as we rise to meet these challenges and capture these opportunities in the coming year and years to come.

January 7, 2011

Hispanic Digital Opportunity: The NBC-Comcast Venture

Access to 21st Century technologies will continue to impact Hispanics’ opportunities for economic and social advancement. To that end, Latino organizations have worked with Congress and key federal agencies to advance forward-looking policy decisions that more quickly put those technologies in the hands of those who need them.  The imminent marriage of NBC Universal and Comcast, pending approval from the Department of Justice and the FCC, is an opportunity that includes a much-lauded negotiation of ground-breaking commitments from the merging companies with national Latino-serving organizations.

The Memorandum of Understanding entered into between Comcast and some of America’s top Hispanic leaders was released in June. In it, the company agreed to some revolutionary commitments aimed at promoting a more diverse high-tech world, not the least of which is a $20 million investment capital fund aimed at minority tech entrepreneurs  who develop new media content and applications. In addition to commitments on Hispanic content creation and expansion – including the addition of 10 new independent cable channels, four of which will be reserved for Hispanic networks and for the expansion of NBC’s Spanish language broadcast properties like Telemundo and mun2 onto online and On Demand platforms – these pledges will have the full weight of an external diversity council that will help Comcast executives meet their benchmarks.

More recently, Comcast announced its “Comcast Broadband Opportunity Program” (“CBOP”), a brand new deal-related offering which will enable Americans living on the wrong side of the income divide to get on the right side of the digital divide. For households with at least one child eligible for a free lunch under the National School Lunch Program, Comcast will offer a $9.95 per month high-speed Internet connection, low cost computer hardware, and access to education and other relevant online content – addressing in a single stroke three of the most common barriers to broadband adoption among Hispanics. In my mind, there is no more critical benefit to the deal than the immediate implementation of the CBOP.