Blog Archive 2012


July 26, 2012

Wireless Broadband Companies – Leading A League of American Investment SuperHeroes

By: Jason Llorenz, Esq., HTTP Executive Director

In defiance of the struggling economy, AT&T and Verizon recently topped the list of “investment heroes”-companies investing in infrastructure, buildings and “capital intensive” expenditures across the United States. These investments create jobs and generate an economic multiplier effect across the economy, as equipment and materials are purchased to meet the needs of wireless networks requiring ongoing maintenance, operation and upgrades. Yet, the real reason wireless broadband companies are champion investors is due to a consumer and policy environment that has made such investments both necessary and possible.

We are now, however, at an important policy crossroads for ensuring these investments for the future. Consumers want more wireless. Across every demographic, Americans are using more wireless devices and demanding immediate wireless access to everything from video to work files to music. This includes Latinos and other minorities who rely on wireless devices for exclusive web access in higher proportion than the rest of Americans. During the past few years, consumer demand has driven investment in new network facilities to help advance the deployment of high-speed broadband service.

These investments have helped create new jobs. A NDN study found that over 300,000 jobs were created in the move from 2G to 3G networks. Building out new towers requires manpower-blue collar construction jobs, managers, engineers, planners and a pipeline of materials. Today the move to 4G LTE is driving today’s capital expenditures, as the companies seek to satisfy consumer demand and provide high speed broadband service throughout the nation. This new wireless broadband infrastructure has made the$16 billion app economy possible and enhanced economic growth throughout the wireless ecosystem.

We need to address the spectrum shortage to ensure that the wireless broadband industry continues to thrive. As this blog has said before, more spectrum must be allocated for consumer use as quickly as possible, not only because of potential consumer consequences but because of the potential for investment. Companies invest to expand their wireless networks when additional spectrum is available to be deployed in the market. Some new spectrum will be made available through spectrum auctions, however, to meet future demand we must look toward advancing secondary market transactions among private entities and the potential for obtaining government-held spectrum .

Newly appointed Commissioners Pai and Rosenworcel have both discussed the need to expedite FCC reviews, with Pai suggesting the creation of an FCC office designated with advocacy for expediency on behalf of entrepreneurs. This is a worthwhile idea, because wasted time at the FCC leaves capital fallow, creates no new jobs, encourages no investment, and benefits no one.

Wireless broadband is a driver of a large portion of the economy — one that creates American jobs. We must ensure that the federal government puts in place the right policies to encourage investment, put Americans back to work and to revitalize our economy.

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Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on twitter: @hispanicttp.

July 23, 2012

Clear Timeline for Spectrum Auctions: An Idea Worth Exploring

By: Jason Llorenz, HTTP Executive Director

At a public meeting of the Federal Communications Commission, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel called for a “clear timeline” for pending spectrum auctions. The Commissioner’s statement is very timely, indeed. America is running low on available spectrum for consumers, a looming shortage that threatens to degrade the quality of wireless services to mobile phones, tablets and unwired computers.

Quite simply, without adequate spectrum, wireless service quality will only worsen from here. Commissioner Rosenworcel understands the urgency of the situation. HTTP, MMTC an others have actively called for action on spectrum to avoid the price hikes and service reductions that would harm the wireless experience of consumers who exclusively rely on wireless for Internet access. Hispanics report such reliance on wireless broadband in very high proportion.

Rosenworcel’s suggestion that federal agencies require appropriate incentives to provide spectrum to wireless providers with the knowledge and resources to deploy it is also right on point. If incentives promoting the efficient allocation of spectrum are not in place, the deployment of next generation, IP-based high-speed networks will stall.

Future innovations, job growth, and economic prosperity are now more dependent on the development of advanced wireless and IP networks than ever before. The government should play a vital role in promoting the development of this wireless and IP infrastructure.

Commissioner Rosenworcel’s ‘carrot-and-stick’ idea is also apt. Providing federal spectrum users with an incentive to reallocate under-utilized spectrum to commercial users by allowing them to reclaim a portion of revenue gained from a future auction of that spectrum, may work better than publicly pressuring them to pursue the most efficient use of spectrum resources.

Commissioner Rosenworcel acknowledges that carrots almost always work better than sticks when attempting to induce appropriate actions. And, as she said, incentivizing the re-auctioning of spectrum resources is “an idea worth exploring.”

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. Is Executive Director, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership ( HTTP). Follow on twitter: @hispanicttp.

July 12, 2012

Why We Need to Fix the Spectrum Crunch Now

By: Jason Llorenz

It’s becoming pretty common knowledge, at least in policy circles, that all of those terrific services we’re getting from our smartphones and tablets may become a lot less reliable unless we figure out how to devote more radio spectrum towireless communications.    The growing awareness is good news. But we’d feel a whole lot better if there was a bit more urgency about the issue. The spectrum crunch threatens consumers, with higher prices, less service for their dollar, and less reliability and quality as well. A new paper by the Hispanic Institute and Mobile Future underscores the rate at which Hispanics relay on mobile – especially in light of the ongoing digital divide in home broadband adoption. And so, the spectrum crunch demands attention in order to avoid harming the mobile experience, especially for those who rely on mobile for their primary web access.

As a smart new paper by Rysavy Research points out, putting spectrum to work is a lot more complicatedthan turning on a faucet for more.   For example, it can take five-to-ten years between the time the government identifies spectrum for wireless service and the airwaves are actually in use and carrying data to and from our mobile devices.

The FCC says we need to boost spectrum for wireless by 500 MHz by the end of the decade.   That’s a big leap, considering only about 542 MHz are now allocated for such purposes, and auctions recently approved by Congress are generally expected to produce less than 100 MHz or commercial mobile use.  We need to figure out where the rest of it’s coming from, and we need to do it right away before our devices start to be less enjoyable and valuable.

The new Rysavy Research paper maps out the challenges facing service providers as they work to meet customers’ growing thirst for video and other services that eat up spectrum.   For one, you just can’t go out and buy more whenever you need it. The supply of spectrum is physically limited, its allocation is controlled by the government, and the government doesn’t make it available very often. Significant blocks of spectrum have been made available only four times in the past 30 years. Companies seek to buy spectrum rights whenever the opportunity arrives even if they don’t need it immediately.

Once a company has rights to spectrum, there are a lot more hurdles before it can be deployed – local permitting, establishing technical standards, and installing additional infrastructure such as new cell towers to mention a few.  To control costs, spectrum is deployed in a controlled fashion as demand rises. Rysavy also notes that upgrading new technologies such as LTE services most carriers are now introducing requires a dedicated chunk of spectrum – even while continuing to back customers using older 2G and 3G devices.

Put it all together, the paper observes, and there will be times when companies are going to have some spectrum that’s not currently in service.   Some critics say these temporarily idle blocks of spectrum prove that wireless companies are hoarding or that the spectrum crunch doesn’t exist. But it’s hard to think of any businesses in which supply and demand are in perfect balance.  What’s really happening here, according to the Rysavy paper, isn’t hoarding, but simply smart preparation – buying the spectrum you expect to need when you can, so that you can put it to use for customers when they need it most.

It’s an eye opening paper, detailed, but accessible.  Here’s hoping that policymakers will give it a look and start working to find the spectrum we need before our smartphones are stuck in gridlock.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on twitter: @hispanicttp.

June 28, 2012

The Latino Civil Rights Agenda Includes Expanding the 1%

— by Jason Llorenz, for The Huffington Post

This summer, The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) gathered their respective constituencies in Orlando to educate, inspire and focus the community on the issues facing a nation as it prepares to vote on the next term of the Presidency of the United States. Immigration took center stage with President Obama’s recent executive order. But jobs remain on the minds of all. It’s jobs and wealth, after all that are at the heart of the two Presidential campaigns — particularly the questions of how to create new wealth, and how to inspire new jobs.

In the midst of both conventions, and talk of the jobs of the future was a conversation about the 1% — which is the percentage of venture capital going to African American or Latino tech startups last year.

Job participation by African Americans and Latinos in the tech sector is similarly low.

For a Latino community that lost 2/3 of its net worth in the recession and housing crisis, new paths to wealth and prosperity are sorely needed. The decline of manufacturing jobs, and the explosion of the tech sector means the future of wealth building must include an expansion of minority tech entrepreneurship. After all, today’s new, tech- driven $100 billion companies do not create even a fraction of the full-time jobs that companies with similar value used to.

The digital divide — the much discussed lag in home broadband adoption and digital literacy — is a significant barrier to expanding the core of Latino tech entrepreneurship and connecting communities to tech-driven wealth opportunities. Latino coders do not just emerge from the 20-year-old set while away at Harvard with Mark Zuckerberg. Coders are born before high school — typically in wealthy school and home environments, surrounded by easy access to technology. This is also what gave Bill Gates an early start — very early access to advanced technology and computers of his time. Those early, tech-exposed kids go on to become the genius coders who invent the new GUI, and turn passion into millions of dollars of profit in the new app economy.

For Latinos, who are leading consumers of wireless, high tech stuff from smartphones, to tablets, to apps– the opportunity to Leverage this affinity with technology, to mold producers who build wealth and create jobs using that technology is significant. But it craves action to build a digital culture of producers.

At the NALEO and LULAC conventions, we ask elected officials and grassroots community leaders, respectively, to engage in five activities that would help to expand the tech 1%:

  1. Engage your community with the once in a lifetime opportunities in Comcast’s

  2. Internet Essentials and the cable Industry’s Connect2Compete programs– make sure every qualified family gets connected.

  3. Partner with groups like Code Academy to teach coding in your community

  4. Educate your PTA about the digital divide and ask them to make it a priority

  5. Work with a local CBO/nonprofit to start a tech program if they Don’t already have one

  6. 5) Use your bully pulpit — sound this issue, and encourage others to seize the opportunity

The future of jobs and entrepreneurship will be more and more digital, less brick-and-morter and increasingly driven by technology.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director, the Hispanic Technologyand Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on Twitter: @hispanicttp. LULAC is a founding member of the HTTP coalition.

June 14, 2012

AT&T’s Spectrum Crunch Ideas

By: Jason Llorenz

A tip of the hat is in order for AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, for offering a convincing set of ideas for addressing the spectrum shortage that threatens to toss a dried up bouquet into the middle of our romance with wireless technology.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal this week, Stephenson identified the unhappy irony of the wireless business’s booming success – it depends on a scare resource whose supply is about to be eclipsed by the growing public appetite for more. Not that spectrum is actually running out. Rather the right to use these critical airwaves has been allocated by government in such a way that wireless carriers don’t have access to enough of it to meet rapidly growing demand for services. President Obama and FCC Commissioner, Julius Genachowski, agree that re-allocation of critical airwaves is necessary to meet skyrocketing consumer demand for mobile broadband services. But that’s a multi-year process that won’t happen in time to address a shortage that is likely to hit as early as next year in the largest markets with the highest Latino populations.

Stephenson mapped out three specific things government can do in the short term – none of which involve taxpayer money – to help wireless companies access the critical airwaves that allow consumers to make calls and businesses to access and to more quickly send data on the mobile Internet. And, in contrast to the anti-government rhetoric that often colors proposals from business executives, Stephenson implicitly acknowledged that government can play a positive role.

Stephenson even called out “speculators” who are sitting on unused spectrum in hopes of an investment gain. Stephenson’s solution is a bit of tough government that would force spectrum holders to use it or lose. In his vision, spectrum holders would get a reasonable time certain to put that spectrum to work or, by sale or partnership, turn it over to somebody who will. This would help spur more investment in America’s wireless infrastructure.

It’s a fair-minded concept that avoids the sort of “big government” directives that sometimes inserts regulators in the day-to-day of business strategy, but also recognizes government’s ability to act in the broad public interest. As Mr. Stephenson noted, the FCC has recently begun to move in this direction by adding tighter build out schedules in approving transactions involving spectrum.

The free market should be allowed to work so that those with unused spectrum can bring it online for consumers much more quickly.

Right now, such transfers require government review that can take a year or more. That’s a long time to wait in an industry where transformative innovations like the iPhone change the game overnight and demand for bandwidth is expected to climb 75 percent or more annually for the next five years.

Finally, and this is a tougher one because it touches on the traditional division of government authority between Washington and local jurisdictions, Stephenson seeks a national framework for getting cell tower infrastructure built. The unfortunate reality is that even with more spectrum, building new cell phone relay towers relies on local approvals that can seriously delay service improvements. Adding towers and other infrastructure enables more efficient use of spectrum so that the same amount of spectrum goes a longer way.

Stephenson envisions a national model to speed up local approvals, much as Congress once intervened to speed the construction of the railroads and the interstate highway system. That might be a heavy lift given the partisan divide in D.C., but it’s worth considering since mobile Internet connectivity may be just as vital to the U.S. economy in the 21st century as overland transportation was in earlier decades.

The economic implications shouldn’t be overlooked: freeing up spectrum in the short-term stimulates investment that creates jobs at a time they are in short supply.

We don’t know if any of these ideas will fly, but Stephenson gets a thumbs up for offering reasonable specifics instead of either whining or complaining at policymakers.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on Twitter: @hispanicttp.

May 29, 2012

Net Neutrality On Demand?

By: Jason Llorenz, HTTP Executive Director

The New York Times’ Eduardo Porter recently called for a more aggressive interpretation of the Federal Communications Commission’s “net neutrality” rules.The particular issue Mr. Porter addresses is Comcast’s development of a new way to access “on-demand” cable programming through the Xbox gaming console, just as they would on the more traditional “cable box.” Porter thinks the government should force cable broadband providers to count these videos against any data “cap” a provider institutes in order to manage traffic and congestion on their networks (Comcast, for instance, now has a 300 gigabyte monthly cap).

The perverse reasoning of “net neutrality” purists is that permitting viewers to watch on-demand video on third party devices like the Xbox without it counting against the data cap will give Comcast an unfair advantage over Internet video companies like Netflix. But this is hardly an apples-to-apples comparison.

As the FCC said in 2010, net neutrality rules are intended to protect the freedom of the public Internet, preventing discrimination against “unaffiliated” bits of data, or data not related to the broadband provider. But unlike its Xfinity Online service, which uses the public Internet and counts against its customers’ data caps, Comcast’s Xbox on-demand service isn’t using the Internet. Instead, the company has essentially extended the reach of its traditional cable network to a new device. In its net neutrality rules, the FCC specifically exempted “managed services” like traditional cable video and telephone service to promote this type of innovation.

Mr. Porter’s opposition to this new offering is risky. If broadband providers are forced to count cable video service against the data cap, families will be forced to constrain their use only because of a government-imposed rule. Worse, if that useage counts against a cap (not all cable providers offer a full 300 GB per month), this could push a family toward, or over, their monthly cap, and in danger of overage fees. This is precisely the kind of regressive cost shifting that HTTP and others have urged the FCC to avoid.

Access to broadband, and expanding digital literacy are among the keys to economic progress for the Hispanic community. Of course, companies like Netflix would greatly benefit if the government forces families to pay more for a competitor’s service. While we all share the goal of an open, transparent Internet, getting the details wrong could create new cost barriers for families — especially more cost-sensitve, less broadband-enabled Hispanics.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on Twitter: @hispanicttp.

May 17, 2012

The Future of Wireless

By Jason Llorenz

Today, there are more wireless subscriptions than people in the U.S. That’s just one of the facts we reveal in the first of a series of Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) info graphics available in English and Spanish. If you have a “work” mobile phone plus a “personal” device, you’re part of that trend. Here’s another shocker: by the end of 2012, there will be more wireless subscriptions than people on the planet. This ever-growing increase in demand is great news for developers who are creating new apps, and for entrepreneurs who are connecting to the global marketplace and growing their businesses.

It’s also important news for Hispanics, who are relying on their mobile devices more and more. In fact, according to a 2010 Pew Internet and American Life study, Hispanics continue to be the most active users of mobile devices for internet access. On average, 51 percent of Hispanics access the internet from their phone, as compared to 33 percent of whites and 46 percent of African Americans. With young adults leading these data trends, we can only expect these numbers and percentages to increase.

As evidenced by the above, we aren’t just using our phones to talk. In the first half of 2011, more than 6 billion text messages were sent each day — that’s a 16 percent increase in just one year. But as more and more people join the wireless revolution, there’s a bigger demand for spectrum- the invisible airwaves that carry phone calls, e-mails, connections to the Internet, tweets, streaming music and videos to mobile phones. In other words, spectrum is what makes our mobile devices work.

As mobile phone use has increased, wireless networks have become overloaded, and as this congestion increases, so too will dropped calls, unreliable connections and slower Internet speeds. Of particular concern is potential cost increases and stricter data caps driven by lack of available spectrum, which is most dangerous to emerging online communities who choose mobile because of cost and flexibility.

Congress recently approved legislation that would provide an opportunity to reallocate underutilized broadcast spectrum through a reverse auction process, which is a step in the right direction. As shown in the info graphic, by 2016, 10 billion mobile devices worldwide will be connected to wireless networks. However, as the numbers demonstrate, the data demands of these devices and their owners will only be met if spectrum is freed up to drive investment in mobile capacity.

Inaction on spectrum threatens to roll back the great benefits of mobile Internet access to Hispanic communities and others who rely on their mobile devices for a less expensive, flexible, always on-hand access to the web.

Jason A Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on twitter: @hispanicttp.

April 26, 2012

RIM’s BlackBerry Woes: A Case Study in the Pace of Innovation

By: Jason Llorenz

Just a few short years ago,Research In Motion’s (RIM) BlackBerry was the industry leader in smartphone technology. It enjoyed near-monopoly status within some key workforce sectors such as Capitol Hill and federal agencies. Today, after just a few short years, and the relentless introduction of newer, faster, smarter (and, many think, cooler) devices that offer Blackberry functionality plus new tools and a preferred interface, many now speculate on RIM’s survival. This provides all of us an important market study on the speed of innovation.

Needless to say, the pace of new technology is astounding. The industry gold standard bearer, Apple, continues to push the envelope – having announced within the last year significant upgrades to both of their flagship product lines, the iPhone 4s and the third-generation iPad.

In the meantime, BlackBerry’s “numbers are plummeting. A National Journal survey found that 41 percent of Capitol Hill workers have iPhones – compared to just 13 percent two years earlier. Meanwhile, BlackBerrys are down from 93 percent to 77 percent, implying that some percentage of people who would rather not are being forced to carry around BlackBerrys for work.” As one Washington Post writer astutely surmises: “Nothing consigns a technology to the Has-Bin faster than being forced to carry it around for work.”

While RIM products may be out of vogue, our national desire for smart mobile technology is only growing. According to the new study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project: “Nearly half (46%) of Americans aged 18 and older own a smartphone as of February, 2012, up from 36% in May, 2011.”

However, the same survey had some bad news for RIM: “An analysis of the platforms being used reveals around 20% of all American mobile phone users own an Android OS-based phone, slightly more than the 19% of iOS users. Just 6% used Blackberry RIM, down from 10% in May last year.”

With all of this movement in market share, the state of innovation balanced by industry regulation and policy deserves some attention. Today’s regulatory and policy ceiling can be tomorrow’s floor – meaning that what policymakers and legislators determine to be the rules that companies live by while leaving room for growth today, could some day become restraining and stifle innovation, simply because one can not know where the market lands tomorrow.

As we’ve seen, technological innovation has the power to address societal challenges. Investment and innovation in Health IT , for example is only now beginning to gain momentum. This sea change in healthcare can improve and even save lives –especially within the most at-risk communities that have difficulty accessing healthcare and struggle with more chronic disease.

While the future of the BlackBerry is uncertain, the potential within advancing mobile technology is bright indeed – with the warning that our policymakers have a key responsibility to make sure the path is cleared for that future to become areality.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on Twitter: @hispanicttp.

April 24, 2012

One Year Later, Rural Broadband Programs Still Not Serving the Unserved

By Jason Llorenz

Last year, I wrote about the need for Congress to reform a decade-old program that has failed in its mission of bridging the Digital Divide in rural America:

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.

Sadly, the Broadband Loan program has not been reformed in the year since, and Congress is considering whether to further fund the program in this year’s Farm Bill, which is being considered in the Senate this week. It’s a unique opportunity for Hispanic Digital Divide activists to speak up and advocate for real change.

The Broadband Loan program has not dispersed a new loan in almost three years, meaning that hundreds of millions of dollars more are sitting unused while 10 million households continue to go without even the option of subscribing to broadband service. Congress can dramatically improve the program by requiring the Department of Agriculture to specifically target these funds to areas without any broadband networks so that we are spending our resources in the areas in which they will have the most dramatic and immediate impact. Congress may also consider recasting the program as one that gives grants, not loans, to create more incentives for applicants to roll the dice on what would otherwise be a very expensive and risky gamble.

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry will begin its mark-up of the 2012 Farm Bill. Click here to find Senators who are Committee members and to find contact information.

Jason A. Lorenz, Esq. is Executive Director, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on Twitter: @hispanicttp.

March 20, 2012

HTTP Coalition on the Verizon/SpectrumCo Transaction

By: Jason A. Llorenz

Spectrum is the lifeblood of wireless innovation and the resource necessary for making high-speed, 4G services available to more communities in more places. Each day, millions of Hispanic consumers and small business owners rely on spectrum to power their wireless devices, smartphones and tablets, while demand for spectrum continues to grow at a staggering pace – creating a looming spectrum crunch that HTTP and its members are concerned could threaten the long-term availability and cost of these services. Recently, HTTP filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), urging the Commission to approve the proposed purchase by Verizon of advanced wireless spectrum (AWS) licenses currently held by cable operators including Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, by Verizon Wireless.

The filing reflects our belief that this transaction is beneficial for a number of reasons.  Primarily, it moves currently unused spectrum intouse, and drives investment to address a looming spectrum crunch that threatens to drive mobile prices upward and constrict service.

In our filing, HTTP says:

One of the most critical technology policy issues facing Hispanics, and all Americans today is the continued evolution of high-speed wireless services as a viable competitor to wire line broadband for access to the Internet…. HTTP believes that this transaction presents significant opportunities to continue the advancement of wireless broadband, while enhancing awareness of wire line broadband among Hispanics — two of the most important components of closing the ongoing Digital Divide.

Separately, SpectrumCo member companies and Verizon Wireless penned a group of commercial agreements that will drive convenience, cost savings, and, HTTP hopes, more even distribution of broadband wire line and wireless services. The cross marketing agreements that Verizon has entered into with the cable companies offer significant opportunities to the Hispanic community, which continues to experience a significant lag in adopting a home broadband connection.  These agreements in essence add a new sales and product platform for all companies involved which will lead to unique product offerings for consumers such as attractive service bundles. HTTP hopes that theunique marketing partnership will lead to greater adoption of broadband service in the home.

“This transaction brings currently unused spectrum online to continue powering the wireless innovation that benefits Hispanic businesses and families,” stated Javier Palomarez, President & CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC).

“LULAC is encouraged by the opportunity written into this agreement to address the digital divide through smart cross marketing,” said Brent Wilkes, National Executive Director for the League of United Latin AmericanCitizens (LULAC), the country’s largest and oldest Hispanic civil rights organization.  “These companies will be able to offer completely new and customizable service bundles that serves the unique needs of the Hispanic community to drive digital adoption.”

“This transaction represents the future of the broadband space – a more complex competitive environment, where economies of scale drive better service offerings, stated Jose Marquez-Leon, President and CEO of Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association (LISTA). The future means more companies in the same space, competing for market share, and, where appropriate, maximizing overall market footprint.”

If the transaction is approved, the new spectrum licenses will help Verizon improve its 4G LTE mobile broadband network.

Regardless, the significance of the Spectrumco/Verizon deal underscores the growing demand on spectrum and the looming crunch. HTTP has strongly encouraged the FCC to approve the spectrum transfer, as one way to repurpose a swath of spectrum for use, help prevent a spectrum crisis that would drive up prices, and avoid harmful consequences for the most vulnerable consumers in the mobile broadband space.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on twitter: @hispanicttp.

March 15, 2012

A Wireless Recap

By: Jason Llorenz

Wireless issues have seen lots of action this month and that doesn’t even account for last week’s big announcement from a certain company in California.

The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) hosted a major conference that focused on the key problem facing wireless technology: lack of federal action to free up airwaves.  Here’s a good summary on the problem and the event from Alton Drew.

My colleague, Jose Marquez at Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association (LISTA) posted this excellent blog on how wireless can benefit healthcare through an extension of the benefits of telemedicine, health and e-health technology that can drive costs down and improve the doctor/patient relationship.  Latinos struggle with dire health disparities that could affect the long-term productivity of generations. Broadband-enabled healthcare is one opportunity to address these disparities.

Finally, the research firm JD Power & Associates published a new survey on consumers and their wireless usage.  The results confirm what Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) already know: More people are snapping up smartphones, which means more people are accessing mobile data.  This trend continues to stretch wireless network capacity.

But the results aren’t just measured in dropped calls and slower connections, although those are bad enough.  There’s also economic fall-out.

I’ve written about this issue previously (see here and here) and the problem this poses for Hispanics.  Congress passed a law recently to allow for auctions of broadcast spectrum for use in wireless services.  The President signed it and now the spotlight is on the FCC to move the process forward, and support transactions that move underutilized spectrum, such as the one proposed by Verizon and the cable companies, into use as well.

The FCC needs to move quickly.  The stakes are high. While many of the policy issues facing this community offer multiple perspectives, there is no question that inaction, or slow action, to address the spectrum crunch leads only to poor consequences for communities who rely on these services – higher prices and lower quality of service. This issue is neither partisan, nor unclear. Rather, action to address the spectrum crunch provides an opportunity for leadership that, at once drives investment, jobs and innovation across the tech sector, all of which is beneficial to our communities.


March 9, 2012

Doctors Need Spectrum, STAT!

By: Jason Llorenz and Jose Marquez-Leon

LISTA, HTTP and our members often discuss the transformative potential of technology. We promote technology, innovation and broadband connectivity because it empowers communities, reveals new possibilities, and changes lives. But technology can also improve health, quality of care – and save lives while saving the health care system dollars. Health IT has had a dramatic impact on patient care and telemedicine, with endless future possibilities.

That’s why the National Latino Alliance on Health Information Technology (Latino HIT), an initiative of LISTA that focuses on advancing health care delivery to Latino communities, kicked off our “EHR Insights 2015: Latinos and Health Care Information Technology”, a conference discussing ideas and applications of health IT, along with HTTP last week. Our conference encouraged the implementation of health IT and electronic medical records in the primary care physician’s practice, paving the way for additional exciting health care technologies and increased adoption of mobile health (mHealth) and telemedicine that in turn will help address health disparities in the Latino community.

Yes, the digital revolution has the potential to improve Latino health. It must be stated that with roughly 50.5 million Hispanics living in the United States and representing 16 percent of the U.S. total population, Latino health and thedisparities we face have national implications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke are some of the leading causes of illness and death among Hispanics. As of 2006 CDC data, Latinos were 1.5% more likely to die from diabetes than the general population.

The leading cause of death for Latinos is heart disease. One of the most critical contributing factors to heart disease is hypertension (or high blood pressure), which can be related to obesity. The CDC notes that Latinos are less likely than non-Hispanic whites to effectively manage their hypertension and pursue preventive care. Latinas particularly, have high levels of hypertension and are more likely to have heart complications as a result.

Communities who struggle the most with life-challenging diseases and illnesses could greatly benefit from new health IT applications that include remote health monitoring and remote medical consultations – opportunities to allow patients to participate in their own healthcare, communicate more regularly with medical professionals regardless of location, and see a more cost-efficient and convenient form of care. But the healthcare innovations that can deliver treatment, care, and expertise in new ways depend on the availability of a robust network infrastructure, including the ubiquitous deployment of high-speed wireless broadband.

The increased demand and use of wireless devices has created a “spectrum crunch” that threatens the long-term evolution of these life-saving innovations. This increased strain on capacity not only affects customer experience and causes dropped calls and slow data speeds, prompting the need for additional spectrum. Health IT applications run on these same airwaves. In order to fully realize the benefits and exciting potential of health IT, additional spectrum is needed, STAT.

Luckily, spectrum reform has happened: Congress recently passed legislation that will make underutilized spectrum available at auction, where carriers can bid for the rights to use it to expand their wireless broadband networks. Swift action to move new swaths of spectrum to use will power continued innovation and investment in the space, and create new applications that could save lives. As Peter Rysavy notes in his piece, re-purposing high-quality spectrum across the bands, and investment in the new capacity it allows, will be needed to advance the deployment of valuable, high-capacity networks.

The spectrum issue is a dense, obscure subject to communicate, even to our most tech-savvy stakeholder. But the bottom line is that Congress’ and the FCC’s role in moving spectrum quickly to advance wireless network capacity is of incredible value to all communities. In the health IT space, technology will drive new ways to address health disparities, drive efficiency, and save money – all of which stands to benefit Latino communities. But only with the continued evolution of 21st century broadband networks – both wire line, and high capacity wireless.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on Twitter: @hispanicttp.

Jose Marquez-Leon is President and CEO of Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association (LISTA), which created the National Latino Alliance on Health Information Technology. Follow on twitter: @Lista1

March 8, 2012

iPad 3 and the Digital Divide

By: Jason Llorenz

Yesterday, Apple unveiled the latest and greatest of it’s amazing devices – its iPad 3.  While the reviews are still rolling in, the third-generation in the tablet series, adding 4G LTE capabilities, is expected by all accounts to be another blockbuster for a company that continues to be on the bleeding edge of innovation and design.  But most exciting, is what the continued evolution of tablet products, powered by high- capacity networks can mean for access.

Few imagined five years ago the impact Apple would have on the way we access information, play, and work on the web.  First with the introduction of the iPhone, then followed by the iPad, Apple has been revolutionizing the way the world accesses information online and on the go. We also can not overstate the significance of smartphones and tablets to making the web mobile and accessible – and the revolutionary, multi- billion dollar application or “app” market they have inspired.

The innovation and creativity to package a pocket-sized computer with a cell phone has spurred unprecedented competition, investment and further innovation from wireless carriers and device manufacturers alike. The “app” market itself, which will be a 15 billion dollar marketplace at the end of this year, has driven a new industry, jobs, and widespread  entrepreneurial activity.

Smart devices have lowered the barriers to broadband access and mobile computing for all consumers – especially Hispanics, who trail in home broadband adoption, but remain leading adopters of wireless and tablet devices. In fact, according to data from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, Hispanics are among the most prolific users of mobile broadband, far outpacing white and African American wireless users.

Now the iPad 3 brings new functionality to a wondrous window to the digital world — with a 4G option. This is good news for Hispanics and others looking for affordability and accessibility in the mobile broadband space, with greater capabilities.  What was not possible with smartphones, the tablet now delivers with its larger screen and ample processing power — combined with a wireless keyboard and some other options, we wonder if the iPad should join the category of digital divide killer.

The entire conversation about broadband adoption begins and ends with a business, an individual, or a family’s willingness to invest in digital tools. What the ipad 3 really accomplishes is a furtherance of excitement about what can be done online. Excitement about the app market as a marketplace for emerging entrepreneurs, excitement about the games that a young high schooler could learn to design, and the opportunities provided by emerging healthcare applications are all intrinsic to the conversation about closing the digital divide.

Once we figure out how every k-12 student can access books online, in  a web- enabled environment, we will revolutionize the education system as well.

Needless to say, the iPad 3 is a welcome addition to a stellar lineup of mobile computing devices. As we have seen with the adoption of smartphones, the hope is that as the tablet market matures, Latinos continue to leverage this new technology and  help close the gap in digital skills that will really make wireless technology the great equalizer.

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

March 1, 2012

A Big Day for Privacy

By: Jason Llorenz

Today is the first day of google’s new privacy policy — designed to mine our activity across all of google’s products — gmail, google+, Youtube, google search, etc. —  to enable google to create more targeted advertising content, search results and other products, based on what you actually do, and where you do it,  across all of google’s services. Google describes the policy in a blog. Privacy advocates have raisedsignificant concerns about the new practice, and the European Union, which has significant personal data privacy protections codified in its founding documents, has signaled that the new policy may violate European law. The new policy is significant – and reflective of where the web is moving, to micro-targeted advertising and products that leverage free services, in exchange for bringing ad content you are more likely to want to see. It is a brave, new world.

One certainty is that in the online world, data is gold. So much of the business models driving the evolution of web content and tools depend upon our willingness to share, and companies’ ability to create business models from valuable user data. This is as true for google, as it is for facebook and so many other emerging offerings.

Latinos lead the use of the mobile web and social media products, and are even more likely to share personal data, like location, via social media. It is still to be determined how these new business practices will affect the issues of broadband adoption and digital literacy that are at the center of our advocacy.

See the Pew Internet and American Life Center Report on Privacy Management and Social Media Sites for more date on Latino use of the Internet and social media.

Much more to come.

Jason Llorenz, Esq.


February 27, 2012

Today Show: How Online Piracy Steals from Families Online

By: Jason Llorenz, Esq.

Last Friday morning, The Today Show ran a report that underscores the importance of enacting effective federal web piracy legislation.  The report, which investigates the role of search engines and other web sites in counterfeiting Rosetta Stone products, sheds light on a problem with consequences for Hispanic entrepreneurs, consumers and families. Online piracy affects jobs and economic activity flowing from many sectors of the American economy – and threatens our goals for broadband adoption and digital literacy.

The story, “Are Top Websites In Business With Counterfeiters?”, exposes how counterfeiters target ad space on large, trustworthy sites in order to dupe buyers into thinking they are purchasing genuine Rosetta Stone products.  Such scams are bad for both consumers and businesses, costing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in losses. But they should be particularly concerning for Hispanics.

We should be concerned that less affluent Hispanics, who are both more cost-sensitive, and less likely than other communities to be able to defend from online theft and related identity crimes are more vulnerable to such online scams. In communities where we fervently advocate for broadband adoption and investment in digital literacy, we must also work torealize safety and security online. The Internet should not be a tool for scamming away a family of new digital adopters’ hard-earned dollars.

Take students, for example.  The Today Show report covers a high school senior cheated out of $200 for wrongly assuming she had purchased legitimate Rosetta Stone software that teaches Spanish.  The scam product didn’t even install.

Unfortunately, educational software is just the tipping point. Websites are selling counterfeit consumer products such as perfumes, clothing, baby cribs, automobile parts, and even medicines at Mach-speed. These products are sometimes defective and dangerous, and can expose consumers to identity theft and computer viruses.

It’s time to act.  Counterfeiters and scammers threaten meaningful adoption of technology and resources that are crucial to the socioeconomic advancement of all Americans.  Piracy threatens broadband adoption, and advancement of digital communities, especially for those just emerging online. It is time for Congress to come back to the table to address this issue in a bipartisan way, with the advice of all of the industries involved in the Internet ecosystem.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on twitter: @hispanicttp.

February 8, 2012

Evolution, Progress of a Digital Divide Killer

By: Jason Llorenz

Six months into the program, Comcast released a progress report on its Internet Essentials program – the low-cost Internet and training offering that Comcast led the pack with as a condition to its merger with NBC Universal. The program provides low-cost broadband service for $9.95 a month; the option to purchase a full-service, Internet ready computer for under $150; and multiple options for digital literacy training in print, online and in person.

In a blog post, Comcast listed a litany of achievements in the first six months of the program including:

  • Publicized the program across more than 4,000 school districts and over 30,000 schools, which have approximately 3.5 million National School Lunch Program (NSLP) families, of which 2 million qualify for free meals under the NSLP and, therefore, are eligible for Internet Essentials;

  • Worked with more than 3,000 partners, including governors; mayors; local, state, and federal legislators, and community-based organizations, including churches, libraries, and PTAs, to promote Internet Essentials and engage eligible families in their communities;

  • By the end of 2011, over 10,000 individuals and organizations had registered for the Partner Portal, the portal had experienced over 100,000 unique visits, and partners had requested 11.5 million pieces of promotional collateral —all at no charge to the partner organizations.

  • Offered approximately 300 in-person digital literacy training sessions with more than 1,250 individual attendees;

  • Empowered nearly 100,000 Comcast employees to directly connect eligible families in their communities;

  • Connected over 41,000 families (an estimated 160,000 Americans) to the power of the Internet in their homes, some for the very first time; and

  • Distributed over 5,500 computers at less than $150 each.

At a community event this month at Comcast’s Washington offices, Comcast Executive Vice President, David Cohen noted Comcast’s early success in getting the program up and running – and commented on Comcast’s early learnings. “…We learned that, in the early months of the program, we may have signed up some of the more digitally literate of the unconnected – those who may have had a computer already, but chose not to connect to the Internet…we realized that our connection to schools are among the top keys to success…and we are studying our participants to understand how to make the program more effective.”

Cohen went on to talk about the upgrades to the program, including an increase in speed, expanded eligibility to families eligible for reduced-price lunch, which expands availability to an additional 300,000 homes, thereby making it available to 2.3 million low-income homes nationwide. Cohen suggested future efforts would include partnering with the Connect2Compete program that the remainder of the cable systems are rolling out.

“We hope that, by partnering with Connect2Compete, we can cross-refer families outside of each other’s footprints, perhaps get more scale in the purchase of hardware…there is much more to be learned during our commitment to this program…”said Cohen.

One of the most interesting facts from this initial report is that a much lower than expected number of families opted for the discounted computer system – only about 1 in 7 families decided they needed a computer when signing up for the home Internet service.

The program is in its infancy, but these numbers suggest the possibility that the expense of hardware may not be as big an issue as previously thought.  It is possible that computer ownership may be high or it is possible that the first to sign up were the most computer literate — only time will tell the difference.

The Digital Divide represents a myriad of entrenched cultural barriers and thinking that are not easily overcome.  The first months of the program provides powerful learning for Comcast, its partners and other program operators. Much work is to be done in expanding participation and driving awareness, but this is a very good start.

Cohen went on to say “the Internet Essential program received more than 750,000 media impressions in 2011…compare that to our launch of a high-speed business Internet product in the same year, which received about 250,000 impressions, and you know that Comcast is pushing hard to get this program noticed and to get families to sign up.”

Comcast announced it is doubling the speed of service for Internet Essentials.  The proposed increase is a nod to the savvynature of this particular consumer segment – they know good value and will spend their hard-earned dollars only when necessary.  One hopes that increasing the value of the program will go a long way to increasing its penetration across the communities it serves.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director, the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP). Follow on Twitter: @hispanicttp.

February 7, 2012

Will Policymakers Botch Mobile Auctions?

BY: Jason Llorenz

First the good news: The Federal Communications Commission is gearing up to auction portions of the nation’s airwaves for wireless use.  This is the Commission’s first auction since 2008 and its success is vital. What’s at stake is nothing short of our ability to continue the social and economic progress made possible by our mobile revolution.

Now the bad news: with much at stake in these auctions, we may face poor policy making that could jeopardize their success. Whatever legislation the Congress passes must accomplish a few goals:

  1. Auction authority should be sufficiently tailored to avoid further delay resulting from judicial review; and

  2. The auctions must actually help Latino businesses by spurring investment and innovation, and address the spectrum crunch that threatens Latinos and other communities who have most benefited from the expansion of wireless services.

As background, these auctions will include portions of wireless spectrum being vacated by TV broadcasters.  The FCC’s goal is to allocate more spectrum to mobile communication so our webpages load faster and our calls go through the first time.  So far, so good.

But here’s the issue: Instead of opening the auctions to all companies that can afford to participate, some seem to favor “auctions” which limit who bids and who doesn’t.

Remember, the proceeds of winning bids go to the U.S. Treasury– needed revenue to address America’s hefty budget deficit and fund our national priorities.  Conducting auctions deliberately structured to bring in less revenue to the American treasury may not be a good place to start.

The FCC has treated spectrum similarly in the past to mixed results.

Back in 2008, for example, the FCC succumbed to pressure from Google and a host of self-styled “consumer” groups and decided to impose conditions on the use of a portion of the airwaves called C Block.  That action drove away potential bidders and resulted in a loss of billions of dollars to taxpayers.  The uncertainty associated with the FCC’s C Block “open handset” conditions devalued the spectrum and reduced the proceeds of auction.[1]

Even more depressing were the mid-1990s PCS C Block auctions in which only companies cherry-picked by the FCC were allowed to bid.  If a company wasn’t on the list, they couldn’t bid (For background on the FCC’s “designated entity” program, click here).

What happened?  More than half of the nearly 500 airwave licenses in that “auction” were returned for non-payment. Meanwhile, licenses held by that year’s big winner, NextWave, wound up in years of bankruptcy litigation that went all the way to the Supreme Court, ultimately costing taxpayers additional billions.

Now look at the potential human cost.  The Digital Divide is still with us. For many, especially Latinos, wireless is helping to bridge that divide.  (For more about that, click here.)  But no one will be helped if this auctioned spectrum lies unused for years because the winning company doesn’t use it.

We’ve become a nation that revels in smartphones.  More than 30 percent of America’s households have only wireless phones, according to a federal report last December.  Among the 25-29 age group, that figure is an eye-popping 58%.

These wireless auctions, likely to take place in 2013, are tooimportant to be poorly designed.  There is far too much at stake — for Latinos, for the nation as a whole and for anyone depending on wireless to close the Digital Divide.

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

January 26, 2012

A Jobs Story: Connecting Latinos, Spectrum, and Mobile Investment

By: Jason A. Llorenz, Esq.

The Latino mobile adoption story is well told. We know Latinos lead in using mobile, including social networking applications via their handheld devices. This week, a new study by noted economists Rob Shapiro and Kevin Hassettdocuments some interesting developments about job creation in the United States that connect to this overarching narrative.

Shapiro and Hassett show how the money spent by U.S. wireless companies to buy spectrum and build faster and bigger wireless broadband networks has created more than 1.5 million new jobs across the U.S. economy.  The study, released last week by NDN, a progressive think tank, documents the direct link between investing in wireless broadband networks and job creation.  Many economists have discussed the theoretical possibility of investments creating jobs (in studies from Deloitte, Ovum / CTIA, and the Phoenix Center), but this study is the first time anyone has actually looked backwards and proved a direct connection between investment in mobile build-out and jobs.

Study after study shows that Hispanics are key drivers of the demand for more and better wireless broadband. This community is a key part of the driver of private investment which has created the jobs documented in the new study.

So, a few takeaways here.  The new study proves that jobs can be created regardless of a slumping economy.  The study also proves that American ingenuity and innovation can have tangible benefits beyond cool apps and faster networks.  Of most relevance to Hispanic communities is the fact that we have played a leadership role in driving companies to invest – which has driven the job creation Shapiro and Hasset capture.

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

January 13, 2012

Why Diversity Still Matters in the Technology and Telecom Industries

By: Jason A. Llorenz, Esq.

Recently, HACR released its Corporate Inclusion Index (CII) which measures companies across sectors on the issue of diversity.  AT&T. The company tied for first place and received a rating of 95 out of 100. NCLR President and CEO, Janet Murguia’s Huffington Post piece lauded AT&T’s ranking. This is significant – and no accident.  Let’s be perfectly honest: Fortune 1000 Companies are not in the habit of merely falling into diversity best practices – instead, these inclusion efforts are often due to hard-earned effort by both internal and external leaders.

Keeping this in mind, the company should be lauded for exceeding expectations across hiring, supplier diversity, and internal supports for diverse talent, especially Latino employees.  Diversity matters, and the business strategies of today’s industries matter – and so we congratulate AT&T while looking to others in the technology and telecommunications industry to do more and do better.

Diversity is neither easily attained, nor easily incorporated into a complex business, unless there is a true commitment to do so. In Silicon Valley, many have called for more and better efforts to hire minorities. Yet those companies continue to struggle to make that a reality. Short applicant pools mean fewer diverse candidates to hire. But once hired, the company’s internal supports for nurturing, training and mentoring talent must also be in place.

Of all the elements of diversity, supplier diversity is key – identifying and cultivating supplier relationships with minority-and women-owned, smaller businesses is one of the most powerful pathways to achieving economic parity, spreading the benefits of economic opportunity, and strengthening communities. AT&T spends billions of dollars with diverse small businesses. Smaller suppliers must be developed and mentored – sometimes even teamed with a larger supplier to be groomed for success. That entails investment of time and resources, and tolerance of risk on the part of a large company. Again, the long-term commitment to success is evident in the results, and the rankings.

What is most important about AT&T and other companies leading in the diversity space is that their actions do not exist in a vacuum – instead, it sends an important signal to leading firms that diversity needs to be included when developing their strategic priorities.  Companies looking to include diversity best practices as part of their overarching structure should heed the example of the companies on HACR’s list.

One hopes that other companies in the tech sector will follow in the footsteps of AT&T in this manner, by making diversity a part of the culture and an everyday way of serving its customers. Incorporating diversity best practices will mean greater opportunity for communities, and a more competitive technology sector.

Congratulations AT&T!

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