Blog Archive 2016
December 8, 2016
By Rosa Mendoza, HTTP Executive Director
The census might not come to mind immediately when thinking about the many important topics that the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) follows and advocates for on behalf of the Latino community. The Director of the US Census Bureau said in an interview with an NPR affiliate that more than half of the census in 2020 could be done online. Collecting census information online sounds like a very convenient way to do it at face value and anything to reduce government spending, where possible, is ideal, however there is another aspect to consider. This topic is of interest to HTTP because in order for Latinos to report census information online they need access to reliable Internet and the proficiency with which to successfully submit their information.
There is a plethora of resources that make broadband access not a luxury but a necessity. Some examples would be students having access to online content for homework, parents having access to medical services, adults accessing websites for job-related reasons and applying online, and the list goes on. But there are other, lesser discussed, but significantly important, aspects that must be considered because so much of what we do in our society is online. One of those is the census. How will an entire generation of Latinos, of all ages but specifically the elderly, access the census online? Many not only do not have the access they need but also are lacking the training and proficiency needed to navigate the web successfully.
In addition to access and proficiency another aspect that will potentially dissuade people, and specifically Latinos, is the lack of security of their personally identifiable information (PII). The United States government, specifically the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), had one of the most egregious and widely talked about breaches that compromised U.S. government and contractor personnel PII. Latinos are particularly vulnerable to phishing and other online scams and the fear of their PII being vulnerable online could also be a challenge to full participation.
The possibility of a lack of participation in the census due to a lack of access to broadband, and the other factors discussed, is dangerous. Census data drives investment, educational resources, infrastructure and at a basic level is the system of record for our existence. Without the complete documentation of the true makeup of the citizens of our nation, we run the risk of genocide by omission.
A strategic approach that aims to ensure full participation in the census is key. The communication strategy must be comprehensive to reach citizens in their primary language, a specific concern for the Latino community. Assuming that for this census there is both online and paper options for submission, what will happen in the future as more and more of our activities are online. Will there come a day when the census will be completely online? It is vitally important for the Latino community that we have a chance to document our numbers and our demographic information for the census and therefore as our society moves more and more to online applications and submission of information we must not leave behind those on the wrong side of the digital divide.
November 29, 2016
By Rosa Mendoza Davila, HTTP Executive Director
The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) is pleased to learn that Charter Communications is launching a low-cost broadband option for low-income families and seniors called Spectrum Internet Assist. These two segments of the U.S. population are routinely on the wrong side of the digital divide and a disproportionate number of low-income families are Latino. Programs like these are a crucial step to ensure that low-income families and seniors do not continue to get left behind in the digital age.
The initiative allows low-income families that participate in the National School Lunch program and seniors who receive Supplemental Security Income benefits to receive broadband services for $14.99 per month. The access speed is 30mbps download and 5mbps upload, which exceeds the minimum FCC specification for broadband service. Additionally, the subscriber is not tied to a contract.
In recent years, similar programs have emerged from companies such as AT&T, called the Access Program and Comcast, called Internet Essentials. These programs could help to ensure that low-income Latino families have reliable and affordable access to broadband services. Programs like these could have an impact on the Latino community considering that according to a Pew study released in June 2016, Latinos report broadband subscriptions at a rate of only 46%, which was largely unchanged from numbers reported in 2010 (45%). Contrast this with their white counterparts who subscribe to broadband at a rate of 73%, up 9% from 2010, and the disparity is obvious.
Broadband access has become essential to every aspect of our lives from educational resources for children and access to medical care, to job-related resources for adults. HTTP encourages all companies to act responsibly and enact programs to ensure that broadband is not a luxury but an essential utility. If establishing low-cost broadband programs continues to be common practice, it could help more Latino and low-income families have the ability to take advantage of all the breadth of online resources and could take us one step closer to narrowing the digital divide. https://www.pewhispanic.org/
November 14, 2016
The economy. Healthcare reform. Foreign policy. Tax plans. Immigration. These were some of the central issues for the 2016 presidential election platforms. One issue we did not hear much about, which is a major factor for the continued economic growth of our country, is access to technology and telecommunications.
HTTP would like to learn about the new administration’s plans for the crucial programs that help minorities and rural communities adopt and maintain access to technology and telecommunications resources. It is imperative for the incoming administration to commit to technology investment and sensible policies that promote access and adoption. Whether it is ConnectEd, Lifeline, or any other government-run programs, they must take a strong stance on ensuring these programs continue to improve and evolve over time.
HTTP represents the voice of the Latino community that finds itself on the wrong side of the digital divide. We are strongly committed to advocating for policies and programs that align with our mission and are critically important to low-income families, and especially Latinos trying to compete in a technology-driven world for jobs, educational resources, medical care, and other resources.
We strongly support and advocate for policies that facilitate investment in technology and that in turn help keep the United States not only competitive but a leader in the worldwide technology ecosystem.
October 21, 2016
By Rosa Mendoza
The first-annual White House Frontiers Conference held last week in Pittsburgh brought together a diverse collection of academics and thought leaders to discuss the future of American innovation in science and technology. Hosted by President Obama, it became clear throughout the daylong event that when it comes to Americans and technology—and specifically our incredible mobile revolution—communities and individuals from coast to coast are more connected than ever before.
Yet, while these extraordinary developments are already taking place, it’s important to remember that the best is still coming.
A vote in July signaled this new dawn breaking over the horizon. Specifically, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) made a giant leap forward in wireless innovation by approving an order that signaled the greenlight for our nation’s transition to a 5G wireless network. This regulatory achievement was historic, and by embracing it and aggressively moving forward with testing and deployment of 5G networks in the U.S., we can ensure America maintains its position as a global technology leader while providing growing communities—and particularly Latinos—with countless new benefits and support.
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/technology/302115-5g-technology-means-new-opportunities-for-americans-and
September 30, 2016
By Rosa Mendoza, HTTP Executive Director and Carlos Gutierrez, Head of Policy, LGBT Tech
An extremely vulnerable segment of our society is comprised of young people who identify as LGBTQI, especially those who are people of color and mixed race. Along with the urgent need for an inclusive society that supports their growth and development as people, access to technology is a crucial component to self-determination and success, whether personally, educationally and/or professionally. The LGBTQI youth community faces serious and ongoing challenges on a daily basis and when you layer on the unique challenges of being from a community of color, these challenges are compounded significantly and the odds of success become daunting.
Statistics suggest that the LGBTQI population comprises about 4% of the overall American population, however, an astounding 40% of homeless youth in this country are LGBTQI. LGBT Tech’s research has shown that mobile technology can play a crucial role in addressing the unique needs of LGBT homeless youth, and the overall homeless youth population, by helping them to keep in touch with supportive networks like family, friends, critical services like case workers and potential employers; gain access to preventative healthcare information; and ensure their personal safety. Clearly, access to communication technology such as connected smartphones and other devices as well as affordable, reliable access to broadband could mean the difference between having a warm place to sleep and a connection to a support community or becoming homeless or worse. Research entities are starting to recognize the vital role of technology in the lives of the homeless. For instance, a range of studies conducted by scholar Eric Rice and colleagues highlight the importance of communication technology for the mental and physical well being of homeless youth, with mobile phones and other devices allowing them to stay connected with supportive networks. In the context of preventative healthcare, online information on HIV and other STDs plays a central role for the sexual health of homeless youth. Finally, mobile phones are vital in ensuring the personal safety of homeless youth, helping them to locate safe shelters, call for help in emergency situations and record incidents of harassment.
For Latino LGBTQI youth, those problems can be even tougher given the cultural and religious stigmas associated with homosexuality in the Latino community. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the most difficult problems facing LGBTQI Latino youth are related to negative responses to their LGBTQI identity. Specifically, concern about family acceptance is the top problem identified by these young people. Slightly less than half of LGBTQI Latino youth have an adult in their family they can turn to for support, while 8 in 10 of their non-LGBT Latino peers have such an adult. LGBTQI Latino youth are more likely to face harassment and violence in the community than their non-LGBTQI Latino peers and much less likely to participate in a variety of community activities. LGBTQI Latino youth are twice as likely as non-LGBTQI Latino youth to say they do not “fit in” in the communities where they live. Two-thirds of LGBTQI Latino youth say they are more honest about who they are online, while about one-third of non-LGBT Latino youth say the same. For these youth, the odds of becoming homeless as a result of disclosing their identity are dangerously high and often technology, in the form of a mobile device or a computer at a gay youth center, is their only salvation.
For organizations like HTTP and LGBT Tech, the best approach to making a difference is to create strong and lasting partnerships, to educate and advocate on behalf of our mutually inclusive communities and to ensure that programs are in place so that members of these communities have access to technology and broadband.
In most cases, no two minority communities are mutually exclusive, nor do they struggle alone. For example, a lesbian Latina would embody the struggle of at least three communities. Many Latinos find it hard to come out due in part to a particularly conservative culture and within wider society face discrimination simply for being Latino and are constantly questioned about immigration status, language and other factors. For these reasons, strong partnerships between right-thinking organizations can ensure that a person who is a part of multiple communities does not have to choose with whom they identify but rather that these organizations understand their unique struggle and are working to educate and advocate on their behalf. Being young and discriminated against can be overwhelming for anyone, rather than ask these youth to figure out which aspect of their identity is more important or where to turn for help, it is our aim to work across organizations so that we, as service providers, can assist all of these youth effectively. It is crucial for organizations to understand the diverse make-up of their constituents and actively engage in partnerships that help bridge these gaps in understanding.
In conjunction with strong organizational partnerships, modern, properly-managed and sustainable programs that promote access to and adoption of technology and broadband are extremely important. These programs can take the form of government-run or NGO-run programs. For members of the LGBTQI and the Latino community, especially young people who are homeless or low-income, which is often the same group, programs like the Federal Communication Commission’s Lifeline program for low-income individuals and families can help provide technological resources in the form of subsidized phone and broadband services to help bridge the digital divide. Lifeline allows the federal government to offset some of the costs associated with broadband providers offering devices and broadband service to low-income users for free or reduced prices. Lifeline is eligible to anyone at 135% or less of the federal poverty level, or who is already enrolled in one of several existing state or federal assistance programs like Medicaid or SNAP (food stamps). Lifeline helps provide affordable phone service to about 13 million Americans. New modifications made to the program will provide about 5.5 million more people with both broadband and phone service.
Another type of private sector program offered by Internet service providers such as AT&T and others are the so-called free data programs. These programs offer free data for consumption while using services through certain content providers. For a low-income or homeless youth who often will have very limited resources, the ability to “spend” their data on essential activities (job searching, accessing healthcare, etc.) without having to give up their social-related content has the potential to reduce data overages and encourage use of resources more strategically. For those who are low-income and/or those who find themselves homeless with only a smartphone, not having to make that choice can have a significant positive impact on both quality of life and future success. Free data plans like these can represent one type of bridge across the digital divide.
Lastly, in addition to partnerships and programs, it is the duty of organizations that have the ability to do so to be strong advocates. Bottom line, its important to make people uncomfortable and challenge preconceived notions and norms. Certain things need to stop. One example is the popularity of turning words that have specific resonance within the LGBTQI community (for example “gay”) into something synonymous with negativity (for example using that word to mean weak or bad.) Similarly, it has become a punch line to call into question a Latino’s immigration status or threaten deportation. It is crucially important that organizations and individuals with a national voice use that influence to question and break these norms. In the middle of a heated presidential debate where the language and execution of discrimination and hate have become viable political tools, it is more important than ever to ask the tough questions of political figures and make sure they are clear about their positions on issues that impact vulnerable communities.
This type of advocacy and partnerships, along with the previously mentioned access to technology and broadband services, can give members of the Latino community, the LGBTQI community and homeless population (and the intersections of those groups) a better chance at equality, success, health, and self-determination in the U.S.
September 30, 2016
HTTP is pleased with the FCC’s decision to postpone its vote on the revised Set-Top Box Proposal which—as we have stated—could alter the way consumers find and view subscription-based television content. We especially commend Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel for bringing measured scrutiny to the proposed regulation. We are concerned that the FCC’s proposal could harm diverse and independent programmers that are important to the Latino community, and we urge the Commission to allow for much needed review and public comment.
Due to continued uncertainty with the revised Set-Top Box Proposal, HTTP echoes the request made by Representative Tony Cardenas and 63 other members of Congress for the FCC to issue a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) for analysis. Transparency, an indispensable part of our democratic process, must be upheld leading up to the Commission’s vote on this pivotal issue. A FNPRM and an end to the sunshine period would allow the public to meet with Commissioners, ask questions, and discuss numerous concerns.
While the proposed rule’s impact on copyright laws is holding up the vote, HTTP’s concerns with the proposal’s impact on privacy protection, innovation, and programmers’ property rights still remain. These concerns all suggest that it is vital for the Commission to create a transparent process that gives all stakeholders, especially Latino programmers and content producers, the opportunity to weigh in.
September 29, 2016
By Rosa Mendoza, Executive Director, HTTP and Amy Hinojosa, National President and CEO, MANA
Today, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to vote on their final set-top box proposal, which would radically alter the way that consumers find and view subscription-based television content. After facing significant criticism from both sides of the aisle following the release of their original set-top box proposal in February, the new proposal supposedly contains significant changes.
Privacy protection is one of the key issues and unanswered questions facing consumers in the set-top box proposal. Based on what is being reported about the current draft, private consumer data could be shared with third-party companies without their consent. Without being able to see the details of the proposal, we still have serious concerns about how consumer privacy will be protected.
The U.S. Copyright Office has also expressed concerns with the set-top box proposal, stating that it has the potential to undermine licensing agreements, thereby not allowing content producers to fully realize the benefits of the programs they create. This could be detrimental to small and minority content creators, who don’t always have the resources to fight copyright infractions, and therefore need to retain the ability to negotiate their own licensing agreements without FCC interference.
Furthermore, the proposal, if adopted, could allow third party companies to create their own TV guides and channel placements, making it even more difficult for consumers to find original, up-and-coming Latino-produced content. It is extremely daunting for Latino programmers, already struggling to be seen and heard, to have a chance of being successful in an environment where their content is buried in undesirable places and overwhelming channel lineups.
As a result, we urge the Commission to pause and issue a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) to allow stakeholders the opportunity to review and give feedback on the updated proposal. It is crucial that everyone potentially impacted by the proposal, especially Latino programmers and content producers, have ample time to review and make suggestions.
September 24, 2016
September 8, 2016
Minority programmers have fought long and hard to establish a toehold in the video marketplace. Their businesses – and their ability to continue serving diverse audiences – hinge on their right to negotiate fair, enforceable licensing deals with TV providers and other distribution partners. When these rights are trampled, the diversity of our television ecosystem is threatened.
We’re encouraged that the FCC has abandoned its original proposal to unbundle pay-TV services that could have given away programmers’ content for free. But the revised framework the FCC is now proposing is still troubling. The new proposal will reportedly create a new compulsory licensing body with the power to nullify or rewrite private licensing agreements – giving third parties with a poor track record of respecting minority creators’ rights a direct role in deciding how diverse programming can be used.
Any proposal that strips minority programmers of their right to freely control the licensing of their own work is concerning and HTTP looks forward to working with the FCC to ensure that all stakeholders’ concerns are acknowledged.
July 12, 2016
By Rosa Mendoza, Executive Director, HTTP
As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moves forward with its proposal to regulate set-top boxes, Congress is conducting its FCC oversight hearing this morning. This hearing will provide an opportunity to address the wide range of concerns that have been expressed by Members of Congress as well as prominent voices in the minority community and private sector about the potentially harmful consequences the FCC’s proposal will have on consumers and the cable industry.
With bipartisan fervor, both Democrats and Republicans have questioned the FCC in recent weeks on its shortsighted effort to regulate pay TV set-top boxes. Even FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel recently voiced her own concerns about the proposal, stating that “the original proposal has real flaws” and that “we need to find another way forward.”
Among the proposal’s major problems: It doesn’t accommodate viewers’ changing demands for more accessible programming and does not protect the rights of independent and minority programmers to negotiate how their content is distributed. Under the FCC’s proposal, large tech companies would be able to poach these programmers’ content and redistribute it over their own third-party devices without sharing and profits with the original content creators.
In order to preserve media diversity, we must have a market where programmers can negotiate licensing agreements with distributors and advertisers to establish sustainable business models. Instead, the FCC’s proposal would fundamentally alter the level playing field in the video marketplace by tipping the scales in favor of large tech companies over independent and minority programmers.
That’s why 18 Latino entertainment companies wrote to the FCC warning of “devastating and lasting harm this ill-conceived proposal would have” on diverse programming. Large numbers of Latino and African American Members of Congress also warned about viewers’ loss of privacy rights. We at the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) raised our own concerns as well.
Fortunately, TV providers have given the FCC a different path forward that won’t compromise programmers’ business models. Backed by several content providers, the industry’s proposal would replace set-top boxes with an apps approach in which pay-TV providers would offer apps that can be used by third-party boxes or streaming services. This alternative proposal would provide viewers with the programming they demand while also protecting privacy and copyrights.
We encourage the Commission to take this alternative apps approach into serious consideration so that all programmers can continue providing content that their audiences enjoy and demand. It’s the best way forward.
June 16, 2016
The Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) is a strong supporter of the open Internet principles but is disappointed with the D.C. Circuit’s decision to uphold the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order. These outdated regulations will interfere with a marketplace that is rapidly deploying quality Internet service to consumers. The Latino community and all consumers benefit most from less burdensome regulations that encourage a competitive environment in which companies innovate and invest in building out their networks. Congress needs to provide a legislative solution to the Commission’s burdensome rules so that the Internet economy can continue to grow and provide consumers with the broadband services they need and demand.
April 21, 2016
By Rosa Mendoza, Executive Director, HTTP
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has undertaken a major reform of the Lifeline program – and it’s the biggest, most important, and most transformative reform since the program began in 1985.
In short, the program, which is currently geared to ensure that low-income Americans have access to essential telephone service to connect with family and friends and reach emergency assistance, will now be expanded to include broadband. More precisely, the program will be changed to give consumers more choice in how they use their Lifeline benefits – and we hope and expect that many consumers will decide to use those benefits to help pay for broadband, because broadband is a key to our economic future.
We at HTTP believe that modernizing Lifeline to make broadband more affordable and accessible will promote increased access to and adoption of broadband services, positively impacting many low-income minority families. One of the most significant aspects of our mission is to increase access to and adoption of broadband among low-income Latino families. Without access to broadband, children of those families will struggle to keep up with their more affluent peers. Lifeline reform is a good step toward ending the “homework gap” and preparing young Latinos for the jobs of the 21st century.
Because the program will offer new options, modernizing it will take many different shapes and forms in actual practice. Consumers will be afforded the opportunity to make different choices, but the principal aspect of the reform, which we strongly endorse, is including broadband into the structure of the program and thus offering Federal assistance for the adoption of broadband. We believe that this will provide a strong incentive for new types of companies to participate in the program, which in turn will add to consumers’ choices and help equalize the digital experience of low-income and other Americans. As the digital ecosystem grows, it is crucial to remove any barriers they face to participating in Lifeline, both now and in the future.
Another important reform is offering the option to enroll in Lifeline in conjunction with other vital federal and state assistance programs. In particular, we support the administrative changes the FCC has made to have a government entity become the national verifier of service providers for Lifeline this change will help reduce waste, duplication and fraud in the program, which helps no one and has unfairly opened Lifeline and similar efforts to criticism in the past.
We commend the FCC for this historic and necessary step. Taken together, these changes will make this valuable and important program more effective and efficient in providing support to a vulnerable segment of society and promote the entry of other providers into the program to give consumers the benefits of more competition and choice. Additionally it aligns with a strategic goal of HTTP, which is to increase access to and adoption of broadband services within the Latino community.
April 14, 2016
By Rosa Mendoza, Executive Director, HTTP
Zero-rating is a new spin on a familiar concept – companies teaming up to provide consumers with a more attractive service. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have begun to offer zero-rating programs that enable consumers to access mobile videos, websites, audio, etc. without it counting towards their monthly data usage. Companies like T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T, and Virgin Mobile are entering into agreements with popular content providers such as ESPN and HBO, so consumers can access their content without paying for the data used to deliver it. The concept of companies covering the “shipping” costs for consumers is popular across many industries and, generally speaking, this type of dynamic benefits the consumer by delivering a service for, essentially, free.
The Pew Research Center indicated in a recent study that 13% of households with income less than $30,000 completely rely on smartphones to access the Internet, in contrast to 1% of those with income greater than $75,000. Additionally, Pew’s report indicates that 13% of Latinos and 12% of African-Americans use their smartphones as the sole device to access the Internet; this is compared to 4% of their white counterparts. Additionally, it is well documented that Latinos use smartphones more than any other group in the United States.
Needless to say, any changes that impact smartphone use will disproportionately impact Latinos. Having zero-rating programs for the higher data usage activities (like streaming video, for example) preserves the data on a consumer’s plan for work and education-related activities. This means that zero-rating plans could potentially help close the digital divide by making broadband more affordable and accessible, especially for low-income minority families. Free data programs could have a particularly positive impact on the Latino community for these reasons.
However, these programs face an uncertain future due to the FCC’s Open Internet Order, which placed outdated regulations on broadband service providers. Net Neutrality supporters have sent a letter to the FCC asking that it ban all zero-rating programs before they “distort competition, thwart innovation, threaten free speech, and restrict consumer choice.” The FCC said it is conducting an informal review of zero-rating programs. If the FCC acts on their letter, this could have a negative impact on an already very vulnerable segment of our society by taking away a mechanism to drive down their costs while offering nothing in return to make the Internet more accessible.
It is important for the industry to be regulated fairly and not levy unnecessary regulatory burden on only one segment. If not done properly, these undue regulatory burdens could significantly stifle investment, innovation, programs that benefit consumers and the progress in a segment of the industry that is vitally important to the U.S. economy.
At the end of the day, free data plans can benefit consumers and provide one form of bridge across the digital divide. Low-income and minority consumers could get more for their money when it comes to what they spend on data plans. One of the most significant aspects, if not the single most significant, of HTTP’s mission is to increase access and adoption of broadband among Latino families in the United States. Without broadband, minority families, and especially children, will not be able to benefit from all the advantages of being an equal partner within the broadband ecosystem. Zero-rating could be a mechanism for parity in access among consumers by offsetting the cost of data and maximizing the money spent on data.
April 4, 2016
The Honorable Thomas Wheeler
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20554
Dear Chairman Wheeler,
The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) writes to express our deep concern with the Commission’s proposal to regulate set-top boxes. We believe this approach will undermine diversity in the television industry, all to solve a “problem” that does not currently exist.
HTTP members support the social and economic advancement of over 50 million Americans of Hispanic descent and work to ensure individuals in our community have equal access to technological advancements. While Hispanic representation in the media and entertainment industry has improved in recent years, we still have work to do. Market and financial certainty are critical to ensuring content creators continue to invest in more high quality programming for Latino audiences, including Spanish-language options.
Consumers are already reaping huge benefits from a vibrant and competitive marketplace that lets viewers watch what they want, whenever they want and on the device they choose. The set-top box proposal is regressive and ignores this highly competitive nature of the video market. Instead of acknowledging the unprecedented innovation sweeping the video marketplace today, this rule seeks to put its thumb on the scale and favor large tech companies at the expense of independent and diverse programmers.
Minority programmers depend on licensing and advertising agreements that are carefully negotiated with TV providers. These licensing agreements provide the programming community with crucial contractual protections related to channel placement, advertising and piracy. They give programmers the security and certainty needed to finance and produce a broad range of diverse programming, and to invest in developing new content for consumers.
If the Commission mandates its set-top box proposal, tech companies will not be required to abide by the terms of these privately negotiated licensing agreements. Instead, the telecommunications, satellite and cable companies that have negotiated and paid for the television programming rights would be forced to hand them over to technology giants like Google for free. The tech companies would get the programming at no cost and be free to repackage it as their own, while ignoring negotiated guarantees about channel placement, advertising restrictions and other critical terms. In effect, the FCC will be giving these favored companies a license to reap a windfall from the vibrant content industry while poaching the revenues that creators rely on to develop high-quality programming. This represents a clear threat to the industry’s continued growth and innovation.
The FCC’s new set-top box regulations provide no real guarantee that minority-owned programming will be easily accessible to minority communities. The proposal could instead harm programmers by making their content harder to find in programming guides or search menus provided by third party boxes since their priority is to collect data to sell more ads. Furthermore, tech companies will have the ability to expand their own advertising businesses around programming without sharing the revenue with the programming creators. This lopsided regulatory interference could ultimately weaken minority voices in the television marketplace and threaten development of the diverse programming that Hispanic audiences demand.
Many minority groups are encouraging the FCC to delay moving forward with the proposal until fully understanding the consequences. In a letter to the FCC, the National Urban League, the NAACP, LULAC and several other leading civil rights organizations asked if “unlocking the box [could] result in less diversity and fewer successful minority programmers and content producers” and “if so, what is the projected data on the extent/size of the disparity that would result?” During the last House Energy and Commerce Committee oversight hearing, Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) echoed these concerns, suggesting that the FCC put the proposal on hold until it completes an economic analysis and disparity study to examine all the challenges minority and independent programmers face on traditional and emerging video distribution platforms.
App-driven innovations are already fostering unprecedented competition in the video market and providing diverse programmers more opportunities than ever for serving the nation’s growing Hispanic community. For that reason, the FCC should carefully consider how its proposal might interfere with an economic model that has proven to be successful. To ensure the vitality and future of independent minority programmers, HTTP urges the FCC to postpone proceeding with its plan to “unlock the box” until there are further studies on how it will impact the marketplace.
Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership
March 30, 2016
By Scott Bergmann, CTIA
Ever dial a toll-free number? Or purchase an item online with free shipping? I’m sure you have. And each time, you’re benefiting from a form of what some advocates call “zero rating” – in other words, free services that provide consumers with more without paying more. In the wireless world, these plans enable consumers to stream content or access data on their mobile devices without that traffic counting toward their data usage or data allowances. So, let’s call it what it is – for consumers, these options are “free data.”
I’m also sure you’ve seen advertisements from wireless carriers, touting their network’s superiority, promising to buy out your contract and urging you to switch providers. In this hyper-competitive market, wireless carriers now offer these free data services to help differentiate their services and attract new subscribers. For example:
March 29, 2016
By Rosa Mendoza, HTTP Executive Director
Online privacy impacts all consumers in our connected world, especially those without proper training in online literacy. Latinos tend to trail in this category and are among the least privacy literate when it comes to safely navigating the online ecosystem.
It is important for Latinos and all consumers to be protected from abuse. It is not ideal for any company to package and sell consumer information to hungry advertisers who are ready to bombard you with “relevant” advertisements, especially if their privacy policies are not clear, but does targeting one segment of the online ecosystem really make sense from a consumer protection standpoint?
The FCC’s recent consumer privacy order appears to be a symptom of the underlying problems of categorizing ISPs under Title II, which is that the FCC may not be equipped to provide clear and effective regulation of the Internet service provider marketplace. By adopting outdated policies the FCC could put the Internet economy on a path of regulatory uncertainty.
Since Title II also stripped the FTC’s authority, placing broadband Internet providers solely under the purview of the FCC, the agency is entering new territory that could lead to two different sets of rules and conflicting guidance. The FTC is equipped to make these judgments based on having significant expertise in the realm of data privacy and associated enforcement. This is why online protections pursued by the FCC, particularly in an ever-converging Internet era, should be made with the FTC. The best way to protect consumers across the ecosystem end-to-end is for the FCC and FTC to work together on protections that reflect the reality of the online experience. After all, you cannot do anything on the Internet by only using an ISP connection- you need a browser, a website, and a plethora of other online platforms, which all remain under the FTC.
It is crucial in the coming months that the roles and responsibilities of the FCC and the FTC are clearly defined. Otherwise we risk the possibility of both Commissions enforcing regulations that contradict each other and create consumer confusion and potentially a false sense of online security.
There are several concerns that are particularly impactful to the Latino community as it relates to privacy vulnerabilities. One example is the practice of targeting Latinos with advertisements from companies that offer predatory services to unwitting consumers, such as companies that offer sub-prime loans and engage in predatory lending. According to a report by the Harvard Journal of Hispanic Policy, “Push tactics and product steering can saddle Latinos unnecessarily with high-cost loans that leave them susceptible to default.” This practice is a major barrier to building wealth within the Latino community and starts with targeted advertising, possibly through privacy violations and a lack of consumer data protection.
The Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP) is a nonpartisan organization and not for or against any individual company or group of companies. We support fair and transparent regulations that protect consumer privacy while also encouraging competition and innovation in the Internet economy and infrastructure investment. We urge the FCC to first develop a multi stakeholder process like the one employed by NTIA so that all points of view, including those of the Latino community, are heard and accounted for before establishing new rules and regulations. We encourage the FCC to adopt such an approach to achieve just that.
March 2, 2016
By Rosa Mendoza
It’s rare to hear Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree on much of anything these days. But we saw a rare outbreak of harmony at a recent House hearing where members of both parties voiced deep skepticism about a radical new FCC proposal that would do significant damage to the diversity of television programming available to American consumers.
The FCC is being pressured by technology giants like Google and Amazon to require telecommunications, satellite and cable companies to provide television programming rights for free to the big tech companies.
Similar to the “AllVid” proposal previously rejected by the FCC in 2010, this mandate would allow any tech company to reuse and repackage programming – without paying a dime for it – to build their own video services by free-riding on rights negotiated and paid for by others.
February 17, 2016
This Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership applauds the United States Senate for its leadership and commitment in passing legislation that permanently bans taxes on Internet access.
Since enacted in 1998 under President Clinton, the Internet Tax Freedom Act has kept a moratorium on taxation of the Internet, and with each extension, has protected consumers from state and local taxes on Internet access. Passage of this bi-partisan measure ensures a bright future for the Internet economy and is a great win for American consumers and taxpayers.
Keeping the Internet free from taxes will certainly help to increase adoption – especially among the Hispanic community. The Internet economy holds great promise and creates a level playing field for the Hispanic community to leverage the power of technology in key areas such as healthcare, education and civic engagement. HTTP and its coalition members applaud the bipartisan work and last week’s decision to make this law permanent once and for all.
February 11, 2016
By Rosa Mendoza
This week marks the 20th year since President Bill Clinton signed the 1996 Telecommunications Act into law. This forward-thinking act was first introduced during the rotary phone era as the Telecommunications Act of 1934, which was later updated when the Internet was in its infancy. Since then, we have experienced a head-spinning transformation in the industry.
With the advent of smart and connected devices alongside innovative apps, we have seen tremendous strides in education, healthcare and job creation. Given the rapid changes in technology, we strongly urge Congress to update the ’96 Telecom Act in order to address the 21st century telecommunications landscape.
A great deal has been accomplished in these past 20 years and we look forward to the future and to increasing opportunities for Latinos to flourish as the industry continues to innovate, create and advance.
February 4, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 4, 2016
Opposition to FCC Chairman Wheeler’s Set-Top Box Plan Grows:
14 Latino Organizations Join the Future of TV Coalition
(Washington, D.C.) –Fourteen leading Latino advocacy organizations, television networks, and content producers announced today that they have joined the Future of TV Coalition, voicing strong opposition to a proposal unveiled by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler last week to radically rewrite the rules of the video marketplace.
The organizations also sent a letter to the FCC explaining their opposition to Chairman Wheeler’s plan, observing that it mirrors the “AllVid” proposal previously rejected by the FCC in 2010. The proposal would allow Silicon Valley tech companies to repackage TV programming into their own products without having to pay for it or honor the terms of licensing contracts negotiated between the programmers and distributors.
The organizations joining the Coalition include: ASPIRA, Dialogue on Diversity, FGTV, Freemind Beauty, Hispanic Leadership Fund, Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP), League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), MANA, National Puerto Rican Coalition, SER Jobs for Progress, TechLatino: The Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology Association, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, United States Hispanic Leadership Institute, and VMe TV.
Jose Marquez, the President & CEO of TechLatino: The Latinos in Information Science and Technology Association, explained why his organization is joining the fight against AllVid:
“Chairman Wheeler’s plan is a sweetheart deal for Silicon Valley that comes at the expense of entrepreneurs and content creators who are serving minority audiences and building businesses in our communities. All Americans deserve media platforms that tell stories for and about their communities, but AllVid will undermine diverse platforms and make it harder to find the high-quality programming our community deserves.”
These concerns were echoed by Victor Cerda, the Senior Vice President of VMe TV, a Spanish-language network available in 70 million U.S. households:
“If Google wants to include our programming in their products and services, we’d be excited to sit down and negotiate a licensing deal with them. But instead they’re asking the FCC to give them access to our programming for free, along with permission to ignore the terms in our licensing contracts that protect our channel placement and visibility.”
Rosa Mendoza, Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP,) pushed back against the argument made by some AllVid proponents that minority audiences would be better served by streaming-only digital channels:
“We applaud entrepreneurs working to launch new platforms through web-based streaming services — digital channels that are already widely accessible alongside pay-TV apps on a huge array of consumer devices. But encouraging these voices must not come at the cost of tearing down the full-fledged networks that are serving our community today. Latino networks are more than just a voice for our community. They’re an engine of economic empowerment — an engine that will break down if the FCC lets Silicon Valley tech giants poach and monetize their content without having to pay for it.”
The letter the organizations sent to the FCC also highlighted significant doubts about claims from AllVid supporters that the new rule will save consumers money: “Experts who studied these issues for the FCC warn that the rule would require a new adapter device to be designed, manufactured, and installed in every viewer’s home and paid for on their monthly bills, and that’s on top of buying a new AllVid device at retail… This proposal seems likely to drive up costs for consumers.”
About the Future of TV Coalition:
The Future of Television Coalition is comprised of 63 companies, associations, and non-profit organizations that support market-based innovation offering TV viewers an unprecedented volume of high-quality, diverse programming available on an expanding universe of devices and services. The coalition opposes unnecessary technology mandates, such as Chairman Wheeler’s proposed AllVid rule, that would threaten this innovation and diversity. Learn more at FutureOfTV.com.
January 29, 2016
By Rosa Mendoza, HTTP Executive Director
Everything is smart, from our appliances and phones to our cars. New cars can park themselves and sense cars and pedestrians to avoid accidents. New tablets respond to the pressure of the user’s touch and our phones can share in seconds better quality photos than many cameras are capable of taking. Even my new energy efficient refrigerator has a built-in tablet running the newest Android operating system, which allows me to check my calendar and to order groceries. So with an estimated 70% of the world’s population living in urban areas by 2020 (and accounting for 80% of the global GDP), shouldn’t our cities be smart too?
But what exactly is a “smart city”? There are various definitions, but for the sake of this blog, we will define a Smart City as one that deploys information and communication technology to facilitate better quality of life for its citizens and entrepreneurship though better public services, more efficient use of resources, and streamlined interaction between government and citizens.
Some characteristics of smart cities include:
Integration of telecommunication and information technology to allow public workers to monitor unsafe conditions on roadways, law enforcement to monitor and better control crime activity through gunfire detection applications (for example), and citizens to more easily interact with their government
Better infrastructure to the point that broadband and WiFi connectivity are as ubiquitous as electricity
Updated (i.e. smart) city and federal policies to reduce waste and increase innovation and investment
The benefits of these smart cities are significant. In fact, in a publication from McKinsey and Company, thought leaders in management consulting and process improvement, stated
“When you get to a critical mass, the data on the benefits is so compelling: a 50 percent reduction over a decade in energy consumption, a 20 percent decrease in traffic, an 80 percent improvement in water usage, a 20 percent reduction in crime rates. The concept of smart cities really sells itself.”
Smart cities are one way to foster innovation and stimulate economic growth. One of the key ingredients of a smart city, perhaps the most important, is investment in infrastructure. It cannot be denied that there is a positive correlation, in general, between investment in telecommunication infrastructure and economic growth. U.S. wireless companies have understood and responded to this fact by investing $78 billion in broadband in 2014 and since 1996 have invested a total of $1.4 trillion in telecommunications infrastructure. Nowhere else on the planet has this level of commitment to investment been seen. It is clear that the result of this investment is positive and has facilitated significant economic growth and fostered considerable innovation. Broadband expansion and increasing connectivity has helped grow small and large businesses alike and has helped entrepreneurs become successful and maintain that success. Additionally, as stated, smart cities rely heavily on robust infrastructure and reliable broadband access. Without it, the data, communication, and interactivity suffocate.
So how do we continue to foster investment, innovation, and economic growth, generally, and specifically as it relates to smart cities? Enact smart policies. If my refrigerator can be smart, so should the policies that govern broadband and telecommunications. Take for example Title II; in an ever-evolving global information technology and interconnected landscape that changes daily, sometimes hourly, why would we regulate this constantly changing landscape that includes voice over IP (VoIP) using policies enacted to regulate pulse dialing signal technology. The latter being cutting edge technology patented in1892 (yes, we are talking about the rotary phone). That is just one example. We must be proactive in establishing policies that will foster investment and economic growth five or ten years from now, not force retrofit our technological advances to outrageously outdated regulatory polices. If we are not careful, other nations or regions (EU, etc.) will begin to surpass the U.S. in developing new businesses and taking advantage of the evolving software, hardware, and infrastructure needs of our globalized economy. Someone will supply that demand and I for one would prefer that American companies supply it. One sure way to stifle investment is by enacting these ill-equipped policies to regulate this thriving ecosystem. Investment tends to shy away from markets with unsure or overly burdensome regulatory policies. In addition to generally stifling investment, there is also the more specific, and very real, possible scenario that instead of investing in smart cities and the associated infrastructure, they will invest elsewhere due to the unpredictable impact of outdated policies.
We have discussed several aspects of investment and how they impact smart cities. But how does that impact the Latino community? As discussed, smart cities have a tremendously positive impact on entrepreneurs and small businesses. With more efficient use of resources and less overhead costs to do business, entrepreneurs tend to thrive in smarter cities. The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce indicates that Latinos are three times more likely than the national average to start their own business. There are 4.1 million Latino-owned businesses in the U.S. and they contribute $661 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Additionally, in a previous blog, I noted that Latina Entrepreneurs are one of the fastest-growing groups of small business owners, growing at a rate six times the national average. Furthermore, Latinas’ impact on Latino-owned firms has resulted in at least 36% ownership, 20% of employment and 16% contribution to the revenue generated in these business ventures. So to say that any policy or institution (for example smart cities) that impacts small business growth has a significant impact on the Latino community is an understatement.
To add to that point, Pew found that 44% of Latinos in the United States live in one of ten metropolitan areas (including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Houston and others). No one can argue against the fact that Latinos continue to be severely impacted by the digital divide and consequently are not able to take full advantage of the associated resources (educational, health, etc.) Smart cities, and by extension smart policies, can facilitate the narrowing, and hopefully closing, of this divide by improving the lives of Latinos in urban areas and facilitating greater utilization of broadband and thereby to all of the many benefits of the increasingly interconnected, internet-based global society.
January 8, 2016
By Larry Irving, The Hill
To many, if not most, Americans, the phrase “regulatory humility” sounds like an oxymoron. Yet, for the last two decades, this has been the almost uniquely American approach to telecommunications and technology policy.
For more than 20 years, starting with the development of the first papers on Internet policy from the Clinton-Gore administration, America’s watchwords were “first do no harm.” Adopting a posture of regulatory humility did not mean that government had no role — it still pressed for universal service, an open and secure Internet, protection of intellectual property and improved use and management of spectrum needed for existing and emerging wireless technologies. The administration recognized, however, that its job was to “steer, not row,” as the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown put it.
Consistently, the United States has acted on the belief that policies that promote innovation and long-term investment are key to maintaining and expanding technological capacity and leadership, creating jobs and improving consumer welfare. The approach has worked. The U.S. private sector has invested more than $1.4 trillion in telecommunications infrastructure since 1996, and private investment in America’s information infrastructure outpaces investment in any other country or region of the world.