Increased access to broadband technology has revolutionized the way we work, learn, and conduct our lives. New modern networks bring high-speed broadband benefits to our homes, schools, and workplaces and provide Latinos with greater opportunities.
Although availability of these ultra-fast networks is increasing dramatically, Latino adoption is still lagging far behind. Only about 56 percent of all Hispanic households (and only about 25 percent of Spanish speaking households) have a home broadband connection, well behind whites (74 percent) and Asian Americans (81 percent). So while the Pew Research Center recently found that the digital divide between Latinos and whites is narrowing, there is still much to do to close the exiting gap.
Approval of (...) market trials would enhance competition in the broadband market; bring cutting edge high-speed broadband technologies to more consumers; and encourage greater access to and adoption of broadband in underserved communities
- Brent Wilkes
High-speed broadband and the services that come with it offer many benefits. From education to economic mobility, access to broadband technology has the potential to change our future.
With 77 percent of teachers assigning homework that requires use of the Internet and 80 percent of fortune 500 companies only posting job announcements online, LULAC believes that digital access is more important to Latinos than ever. Benefits include enabling students to do their school work, complete financial aid and college applications. It also enhances a parent's ability to manage money, conduct job searches, undergo job trainings, and even take English language and citizenship preparation courses. “Distance learning” and “telemedicine” were unfamiliar terms a few years ago; but, today, more people including Latinos use these opportunities.
Another critical benefit provided by digital technology is in the area of civic engagement. For instance, broadband provides tools which LULAC has used with voter registration initiatives, immigration campaigns, and live-stream broadcasting of issues critical to the community. Informed citizens are more likely to become engaged which then builds a stronger democracy.
In order to complete the technology upgrade and ensure continued innovation in the marketplace, federal policymakers should encourage competition and private sector investment. The recent statement by the Federal Communications Commission laying out their plans for limited market trials that will test the transition to higher speed networks, is an encouraging step in the right direction. The proposal before the agency would create a public-private partnership that would test the better technology in selected local markets. These tests would allow broadband service providers and government regulators to work together to monitor, measure and address technical and service issues that might arise. Approval of these market trials would enhance competition in the broadband market; bring cutting edge high-speed broadband technologies to more consumers; and encourage greater access to and adoption of broadband in underserved communities
High-speed broadband communication networks will undoubtedly play a key role in the continued advancement of our community. Many of us already benefit from the resources and tools which broadband provides. Increased cooperation between government and the private sector to institute these market trials will ensure that the deployment of broadband networks nationwide remove innovation barriers and bring new opportunities to Latinos, and to all Americans.
Brent A. Wilkes is the National Executive Director for the League of United Latin American Citizens this country's largest and oldest Hispanic organization.