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To Bridge the Urban Digital Divide We Need A Better Infrastructure and New Thinking


When you hear talk about the FCC creating plans to create equal levels of internet access for all, most of those plans don’t really take in to account how to bridge the divide in urban and rural areas for minorities. The government does not have the money to do it on their own. They also seem to take a general swipe approach to how to solve the broadband problem without taking into account that problem need to be solved in multiple ways for different groups. The two areas that I believe they are looking at all wrong.


There are areas of the country where the current infrastructure can not give it’s inhabitants access to current internet technology. Those areas are primarily rural areas and lower income urban areas. In both these causes the current wired internet products are not readily available and there is no short term plans to change that. Because of that limitation Both of those audiences have taken advantage of wireless to get their access Although the rural areas in some cases still struggle because currently most wires networks don’t reach all rural areas. The ATT /T-Mobile deal would have solved this problem for many of those areas but that is currently not moving forward. No one else has stepped up to offer a solution for this problem which leads me to have concerns that the people in these areas would be left behind.

Digital Literacy  and Empowerment

People believe cost is the biggest barrier to increasing adoption.  I don’t agree.  I believe that the real issue is the lack of digital literacy among minorities which limits the ability to see the value they can get from broadband. The mobile device is a great example. Mobile usage among African Americans and Hispanics is growing at a rapid pace.  We have come to understand the value that broadband wireless access adds to our lives in various areas ( education, Employment, healthcare, etc..) SO even in lower income areas you have seen growth in smartphone purchases because in the investment empowers those users various areas. I’ve seen in many times when I’ve spoken to large groups  that once that light bulb moment occurs when the people in the room see how it creates value in their lives, the perception immediately changes.

If we really want to see Urban Digital Divide close then these are two areas we need to focus on and the private sector has to play a part for to happen quickly and we have to play a part for the value to be clear and obvious.

Top Ten Flaws in FCC’s AT&T/T-Mobile Competition Analysis


I’ve been saying for some time now that there are critical items that the FCC is ignoring in their competition analysis of the ATT/T-Mobile merger. I recently came across an Article on that gives a great summary of some of those flows. You can read the article here and I’ve listed the flaws below:

  1. Totally ignored the Internet’s impact on wireless competition.
  2. Totally ignored international competitive comparisons that repudiate its conclusion.
  3. Assumed away all existing wireless competition that does not support its conclusion.
  4. Totally ignored the financial/investment facts of Deutsch Telecom, T-Mobile’s parent.
  5. Totally ignored the competitive impact of the FCC-described “looming spectrum crisis.”
  6. Overplayed the maverick impact of T-Mobile by ignoring Sprint’s maverick incentives.
  7. Turned a blind eye to the fundamental high-capital intensity of wireless competition.
  8. Silent about Open Internet presumption that competition can’t protect consumers.
  9. Totally misunderstood where the real market power resides in wireless devices.
  10. The proposed Verizon-Cable spectrum sale and cross-marketing arrangement blows up the staff analysis’ central assumption that Verizon and AT&T will not compete fiercely going forward.

There are more but this a good top ten. As you read all the media and commentary. It’s important to think back this reasons and at least as yourself the question why?

Cell Phone Use Continues to be the Driver for Minority Access


The latest Pew report was published about Cell phone usage and it continues to show what increasingly more and more people are starting to realize, that wireless is the key driver to closing the digital divide. You can find the report here but all the data points to how mobile broadband is continuing to provide access to minorities to services that they otherwise would not be connected to. IF you look at the chart of mobile activities by race, the growth is fairly obvious.  But even with this data showing the need for more coverage in areas where Minorities currently do not have adequate coverage. People still work to block actions like the ATT merger which would help solve this  issue but they don’t offer any other solutions to replace it.  As you look through this study is clear everyone’s focus should be on universal access.

Governement Officials Tout benefits of AT&T Merger

House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith made pitch urging federal regulators to see the benefits of the AT&T/T-mobile merger. He joins a growing list of supporters touting the benefits of the merger to groups that are directly involved in making the decision.   He also make statements question how the opponents looked at the deal  and did not see the benefits. Smith cited specific reasons as to why the opponents should see this merger as beneficial:

Smith, whose committee reviewed the transaction, wrote to federal regulators on Monday, asking them to keep in mind benefits of the deal including improved cell service, more efficient use of spectrum, and expansion of advance wireless broadband services to 97 percent of Americans.”

It will interesting to see if his opponents take a second look at the facts that he raised. You can read the full story here

Louisiana Becomes Second State To Approve AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

The Louisiana Publci Service Commission voted to approve the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile USA. Louisiana is the second state to approve the deal joining the Arizona Corporation Commission. While there 3 other reviews still pending these approvals show that states are seeing the benefits to the merger once they look at the facts. The commission in Louisiana could have rejected the filing if they felt that the merger was not in the public interest. Theri approval shows that they do not believe that to be the case. Their report states:

“The Louisiana commission is empowered to reject AT&T’s filing if it is found to be against the public interest, but the staff report argues the deal will result in at least $8 billion in investments, some of which will be in Louisiana, along with increased rural broadband coverage and new jobs in the state, thanks to AT&T’s pledge to deploy next-generation wireless broadband nationwide.

The Last Frontier For African Americans Stuck in The Digital Divide Is Rural America


image courtesy of

We all know we take for granted the access we have to Internet. We complain if we can’t find a wifi hotspot, when we walk into an area with a low wireless, and always complain about the prices we pay for these services. Well imagine if all those complaints went away because you didn’t have access to the most basic of wireless services. Those complaints would seem small in comparison. Well that is plight of over 4.4 million African Americans living in rural America. In a piece written by Hilary Shelton of the NAACP, she talks about how there is a still an “basic access “issue  in rural America.

“According to the Federal Communications Commission, 12 million homes lack access to even the most basic high-speed services, and the majority of these homes are in rural areas that too many in private industry often see as too expensive, too risky or not profitable enough to build out and serve.

This lack of access directly impacts the 4.4 million African- Americans living in rural areas and farms in America.”
There are people who contend on a daily basis that the digital divide is over. While wehave made significant strides over the last decade, it is far from over. Even in urban centers broadband adoption and literacy are only around 50% for African Americans compared to almost 90% for mainstream America. But the problem is rural areas is a much different. Without access to basic broadband and wireless services there is no luxury of basic choices. No access to email, no way to extend their reach to suppliers outside their general area and no global perspective. Second class citizens in many aspects. So when we complain about how we want the access we have to continue to get faster and at the same time cheaper. Let’s remember the people who want love to have a quarter of the options we have now.

It’s Easy for People Who Take Innovation For Granted To Go Against Giving It To Others

It’s human nature to take things for granted. No matter how new or extraordinary something is it will only be a matter a time until we complain about it. In the case of technology that is more the case than ever. As we consume it a a rapid pace our appetite for give me more for less is greater than ever. I see this a great deal in the case of the ATT/T0mobile merger. People complain about the potential for higher prices, less options other hypothetical scenarios all the while taking for granted the innovation that has gotten us to the place where  we can take what we have for granted. But what about the people who have not had that chance yet. Who have not experienced the benefits of wireless innovation woven into the fabric of their everyday lives. Shouldn’t they have the chance that we had. So i ask all the people who are in a position to take what we have for granted, shouldn’t we at least give the underserved the chance to get to that place too?

Wireless Services Get Better, Faster, Cheaper

With the recent release of its Wireless Competition Report, the Federal Communications Commission has proven what many technologists, entrepreneurs and tech insiders already know: with each passing year wireless technologies get better, faster and more affordable.

There are a couple standouts in the FCC’s 15 Annual Wireless Competition Report, notably:

  • In 2010, nearly 90% of the population could chose from 5 or more mobile providers; that’s up from just 72% in 2009;
  • Voice, text and data services have all decreased over the years, even as people use those services at greater frequencies; and
  • People are using their mobile devices more and more to access the Internet

What’s really interesting about the explosive growth of wireless is that at the same time people have come to rely on the services as a more integral part of their lives, the improvement both in cost and efficiency of the services has occurred in the midst of a number of mergers between various wireless service prices.  This pattern should be welcome news for the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice as they review the terms of the currently pending AT&T/T-Mobile merger.

As wireless competition continues to be a reality in our current landscape, and wireless services and devices an ever more essential part of our economic development and recovery strategies, consolidation of the AT&T/T-Mobile brands looks like a win-win type of deal.  It could help foster a more efficient use of spectrum – i.e. higher service quality – rapidly deployed to more people – creating ubiquitous wireless access.  But also in this current landscape, as evidenced by the Wireless Competition Report, we can expect wireless services to become available at more competitive and affordable rates, leading to an incentive for increased wireless adoption among would-be consumers.

Black Commerce Organizations Come out in Support of AT&T merger.

This past week the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) and the United States Black Chamber (USBCI) joined forces with a host of other organizations in support of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger.

In their June 20th letter to the Federal Communications Commission the groups said,

“We urge the FCC to support the AT&T- T-Mobile merger given that the potential benefits of enhanced coverage and access to next generation wireless broadband service will create new opportunities to expand real equality across our society.”

As apparent from my other postings, I am also a supporter of this acquisition for many reasons. Most notably and mentioned above, the approved merger will mean the expansion of high speed internet service to 55 million more Americans. As a long time advocate of digital equality I could not be happier about the merger as well as the increased show of support for AT&T.

NBCC and USBCI, whose like missions are to support black enterprise and economic growth, also addressed the positive economics associated with the merger.

“Our greatest opportunity for substantial and sustainable growth in jobs and business expansion lies in the digital sector.”

This substantial and sustainable growth the groups spoke to include an estimated *96,000 new jobs that will be created if the merger is approved. In this economy we can’t afford to say no to job creation opportunities.

More specific to the groups’ mission statements, they noted their support for AT&T is also a result of the corporation’s “demonstrated record of diversity in hiring, promotions and procurement.”

As evidence, just this year AT&T was ranked #2 in Top 50 List of America’s Top Organizations for Multicultural Business Opportunities. The list, published by each year, signified the over $9.2 billion AT&T spent with diverse suppliers in 2010 alone. That equals 18.8% of the company’s total procurement spend.

Marianne Strobel, Executive Director, Supplier Diversity, AT&T, said, “in 2010 we endeavored to increase our spend levels with diverse suppliers even at a time of budget reductions. In fact, we were able to increase our diverse spend by 34 percent.”

It’s so easy for corporations to use current economics as an excuse to ignore minority businesses, but obviously AT&T is a different kind of employer. I’m with NBCC and USBCI when they say,

“We are confident that a combined AT&T and T-Mobile will establish an industry standard for a diverse and equitable work place as well as expand AT&T’s best practices for supplier diversity.”

I am also confident that with the approval of the FCC, a significant portion of AT&T’s proposed merger investment of $8 billion will no doubt go to creating quality jobs and business opportunities for African Americans and other people of color.

*as noted in a study by the Communications Workers of America

Tech-Centered Church Initiative Shows Support for AT&T/T-Mobile Merger

As part of the ongoing review of the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger, the National Black Church Initiative (NBCI) filed comments this week before the Federal Communications Commission in support of the $39 billion deal.

“The black church wants to ensure that we are heard on this most important merger,” said NBCI President Rev. Anthony Evans. “After doing our due diligence,” he went on to say, “analyzing and researching over 4,000 pieces of literature, some of which is not even in the public domain, we have concluded that the merger deserves our support during this critical time in our nation’s history and in light of the needs of black consumers and small businesses.”

NBCI is a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches from around the country, representing 15 denominations and boasting a membership of 15.7 million African Americans.  The organization’s central mission is “to eradicate racial disparities in healthcare, technology, housing and the environment” by “providing critical wellness information to all of its members, congregants, churches and the public.

NBCI outlined four points as the basis of its support.  Namely, this merger:

  1. Allows entrepreneurs and ISPs opportunities to create innovative and profitable business models while upholding important net neutrality safeguards that allow consumers to access the lawful content of their choosing; run the applications and services of their choice, subject only to the needs of law enforcement; connect to networks their choice of non-harmful legal devices; and enjoy competition among network providers, application and service providers and content providers.
  2. Enables small businesses to “have access to the Internet and other essential telecommunication services to remain relevant, buoyant, and successful,” and allows such businesses to grow and flourish at a competitive rate;
  3. Creates incentives for increased wireless broadband adoption, particularly by low and middle income people, by making spectrum allocation more efficient and following the trend of reducing the prices of wireless services; and
  4. Facilitates efforts of the Church to provide “both moral authority and social services” by improving the telecommunications infrastructure upon which the Church relies to communicate with members and the communities they serve.

Rev. Mark McCleary, Chair of the NBCI Minister Alliance says, “This has not been an easy experience – there have been lengthy discussions on the pros and cons of this issue.

“I truly believe that this journey represents a maturing of the black church and an enhanced ability to protect our members from adverse economic developments.  We have always understood the importance of shaping our destiny and we will not allow external forces to begin now.  Our endorsement of the AT&T/T-Mobile merger reaffirms our primary role as an advocate for our member churches and congregants.”

This article also appeared on blackweb20 :