The good news is that when it comes to internet adoption through smart phone technologies, Latinos are on par and in many instances are early adopters compared to the general population. When it comes to smart phones, our kids and most of their parents are for the most part “wired”. At least in terms of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and the 3 or 4 invented since this sentence was begun!), Latinos are not disadvantaged by a digital divide. However, cell phones are not serious platforms for job applications, research, homework, business or work from home. Having said that, innovations in tablets may very well provide the nexus between technology and need in a mobile format. All of those platforms, primarily through broadband access, create wealth and help assure full access to the American Dream, and in that regard, Latinos face substantial challenges.
Whether it is because they lack finances, live in underserved urban and rural communities or don’t have fundamental access to high speed internet, Latinos are unfairly separated from the very tools essential to economic competitiveness in a digital and increasingly global economy.
Broadband adoption in the Latino community should not be an either/or proposition. Regardless of socio-economic status or geography, so many aspects of our lives are moving online. Our society has already gone online to consume entertainment, news and information, learn, connect with family and friends, buy and sell goods and services, and participate in social and community causes.
Latinos should not be left behind with lower levels of at-home broadband adoption. While we ensure that community anchor institutions like schools, libraries, and hospitals have high-speed Internet connections, we must also seek policy solutions to advance connectivity into the home.
Internet Protocol Transition
The FCC has recently authorized carriers to begin limited “test trials” to explore the best and most efficient way to transition America to all-broadband networks and ultimately decommission the antiquated voice-centric POTS network. From a number of perspectives, this may very well be the most important issue for Latinos. Successful Internet adoption should rightfully include full access to broadband. Will Internet-based networks be introduced first in the more affluent neighborhoods of America with the poor having to wait at the end of the line? And will rural children fall further behind their urban counterparts?
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have a solid record of delivering broadband services across diverse communities in plant operations, and bare great costs for maintaining new and old technologies across a diverse footprint. How can we ensure that new market entrants will make serving low-income communities a similar priority?
HTTP believes that regulators need to carefully balance the equity of full participation with the recognition that the market place is the most rapid and effective agent of change. ISPs should not be required to maintain antiquated technologies for even a moment longer than necessary to transition to the broadband future.
Americans love the Internet and it shows in the traffic jams and congestion that are becoming an unfortunate part of some mobile experiences. Latinos are no different and share a love for consuming rich multimedia over the Internet, binge watching television, streaming music and sharing videos. Just like any roadway that has cars in excess of capacity, it’s time to expand our roads and make sure that the ones we already have are used as efficiently as possible. With today’s modern data-intensive broadband apps and services, network congestion can become an issue.
HTTP believes that the nation’s spectrum policy should include both exclusive licensed spectrum that carriers have used to build out innovative next generation wireless broadband capabilities that consumers enjoy, and unlicensed spectrum that has been successfully used for services such as WiFi (as a complement to larger network deployments). The FCC’s upcoming spectrum incentive auctions are an important part of the nation’s spectrum policy agenda. Thus, it is critical that the FCC establish an auction framework that ensures carriers have the licensed spectrum they need to support consumers’ mobile lives, as well as sufficient unlicensed spectrum for continued innovation and inventions.
HTTP looks forward to working with the FCC and Congress to expand spectrum opportunities for consumers to continue to enjoy innovative and life-enhancing mobile broadband solutions and opportunities and to make sure they do so in a manner that assures Latinos equal opportunity.
Health Care & Education
No one knows exactly what the final role of telecommunications will be in health care and education delivery, but everyone who pays any attention understands that it will be profound. Americans still spend more on health care than any developed nation and depending on the ailment, have less successful outcomes than most developed nations. If our nation is behind other developed countries when it comes to health care delivery and improving educational outcomes for students, imagine where economically disadvantaged Americans stand.
Advances in technology will be particularly important to Latinos, whether it be the ability of health care professionals to remotely monitor the well being of patients at home, the ability of our elderly to self report and avoid needless trips to the doctor, or the enhanced capacity to quickly and accurately diagnose and treat illness. Technology and telecommunications will advance preventative care which everyone agrees is the single most cost effective form of health care.
HTTP will be a forum for dialogue on Latino health care issues as impacted by technology and telecommunications, with an emphasis on the outdated rules and regulations that are hindering the deployment and usage of new technologies. Throughout the year, HTTP will also monitor key educational technology issues, such as the federal E-rate program and the ConnectEd initiative. From HTTP’s perspective, E-rate should be all about speed. Every student, not just Latinos, should be connected at school and HTTP intends to advocate strongly for expansion of E-rate.
Open Internet: The U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Decision
The issue of Open Internet and network management has been hotly debated for years and has engendered strong disagreements, some well-informed and others, well, less-informed. And while the differences of opinion may not have changed, the realities surrounding the issue have changed profoundly with the January 14, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision in Verizon v. FCC. It is definitely recommended reading.
The Court laid to rest some questions about the authority of the FCC to regulate the internet, but it also raised new ones and set in motion the potential for dramatic rule changes at the FCC as well as action by Congress. While some have immediately forecast the end of an open internet, HTTP reads the case as far more nuanced and not necessarily at odds with our goal of closing the digital divide between Latinos and affordable broadband access.
HTTP looks forward to continuing to assess the Open Internet issue and communicating with policy makers to ensure that our community continues to enjoy a robust and open Internet.