Posts Taged broadband-internet-access

Don’t Slow Down Broadband Adoption Just for Spite

This post originally appeared on the huffingtonpost.

Now that the midterm elections are over I’ve been reading all the reactions from voters and have noticed a trend. A lot of people have openly admitted that they voted for a candidate that opposes President Obama’s policies just to send a message; also admitting that candidate was less qualified and that they essentially did it for spite. Once that really started to sink in, I thought about how damaging that kind of mentality is to everyone.

I started to think about my world of technology and broadband and started to wonder if spite was the motivation of certain people pushing Net Neutrality regulations. They say that they are trying to “Save the Internet,” but whenever they are asked what danger the Internet is in, they jump to talk about how the telecoms make too much profit and how they need to be regulated, all while not being able to point to one single issue that shows their claims are credible. None of their reasons sound like they are trying to “save” the Internet at all. Instead of giving the consumer real information and data by which to make informed decisions, they feed on their emotions and fears with phrases like “it’s a civil rights issue” and “don’t let them control your internet.”

What is truly spiteful is when you hear the FCC say “We need to partner with the corporate world to deliver on the National Broadband Plan in order to get high speed Internet access to everyone.” And then you purposely conduct activates to take attention away from working towards that goal. Who are you hurting? The Government? The Telcos? No! You are hurting the very people who you say you’re trying to “save” the Internet for, misleading them to believe that your plan will work out better in the end. Good plan. And when a large group of us get left behind in this broadband revolution you won’t be there to help them because you will have achieved your goal. If that is not spiteful, I don’t know what is.

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As Broadband Use Grows The Gaps Remain In The Same Places

There was a recent article on that talks about the growing usage of numbers in broadband in the US.  As we all continue to become part of a world where having broadband access whether it’s residential or wireless is becoming a key differentiator in the quality of life that people can have. The article cites some significant growth statistics:

“Among the major findings:

_ 94.1 percent of households with income exceeding $100,000 subscribed to broadband in 2009, compared with 35.8 percent of households with income of less than $25,000.

_ 84.5 percent of households with at least one college degree subscribed to broadband last year, compared with 28.8 percent of households without a high school degree.

_ 77.3 percent of Asian-American households and 68 percent of non-Hispanic white households subscribed to broadband last year, compared with 49.4 percent of African-American households and 47.9 percent of Hispanic households.

_ 65.9 percent of urban households subscribed to broadband in 2009, compared with 51 percent of rural households.”

These numbers are reported were prepared by the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Economics and Statistics Administration. And at first glance of these numbers it’s easy to assume that growth is great across the board. But it is not and that’s what I like about this article the most. It does not attempt to spread that misconception. It also shows that the growth in broadband adoption among minorities is lagging fairly significantly. The same reasons that are always discussed are mentioned again. Income is one of the factors but the main factor continues to be that these  groups still have large numbers of people who don’t see the value of the internet.  The other point that they mention is that if people around you in your network are not using the internet then you are less likely to adopt it.  That speaks to  all the people who may read this post. If you are a minority then showing people in your extended the value in the internet through your own use speaks volumes in terms of relevance.  As the holiday season approaches  think about giving gifts that expose people in your life to the power of broadband and they will in turn show others. One thing I can tell you is that in 2011a that these numbers will increase. We have to work to make sure the gaps don’t continue to widen at the same time.

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Encrouraging Government Procurement of Minority Tech Start-Ups

The post originally appeared on Politic365

The Internet is a topic of conversation in D.C. more than ever these days.  It has spawned companies like Google and Facebook that have not only changed how we find and share information but have also impacted the economy with job creation and monetization opportunities for companies of all sizes on their platforms.  Yes, the Internet has been a life-changing bed of opportunity for thousands of small companies and individuals, alike.

Within all the opportunity, however, there lies a problem that does not seem to be improving, not to mention it’s a little secret that many people just aren’t talking about:  the lack of diversity in the start-up technology space.

It’s not a hidden issue per se, as reports from CB insights show us the hard data that less than 1% of start-up founders are African American.  Yes, minorities are consuming media (especially those accessible across mobile devices) at alarming rates, but they are not involved in the product creation process in a manner that ultimately yields jobs creation and economic opportunities.  The excuse that minorities just adapt to technology later than their non-minority counterparts, which was one of the justifications given when the term “digital Divide” was coined by Larry Irving, no longer can be used to justify this gap.   Calling it a “Digital Lag,” as I recently heard on a call, in an effort to show some sort of progress does not mitigate the lack of production on the part of minorities either.

The problem here, is bigger than access or adoption of technology.  What we’re facing is systemic, as noted in reports by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies or the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which find that  less that 50% of African Americans and slightly over 50% of Hispanics have adopted broadband internet at home. What, then, does this mean? It means that minority youth are not growing up with the Internet in their home.  They are not developing the comfort and confidence with the technology that enables them to realize that they can be producers, not just consumers, of the latest new online gadget or widget; that empowers them to think, “what if I built something”?   The result?  Many minority youth don’t have access to all of the free online learning that is available to them.  Or, if they have access to it, they have not yet learned how to realize the power of technology and leverage it to their own best benefit.

When others talk about this issue they usually place one sided blame on the investors in the space.  I don’t really agree with that.  Several parties contribute and can help with the situation and receive benefits from helping. An entire calculus is involved in changing the culture from consumption to production and involves everyone from VCs and angel investors, start-ups large and small, minorities themselves and the government.

All of the private entities and individuals mentioned above are already known to our government, which is gradually taking steps toward embracing technology with initiatives like and the code for America ,but in order for us to create a new level of interest and engagement among our citizenry, we have to do more bring minorities into the fold.  Here are a few ideas for what the government can do to further incentivize techonology adoption and use.

  • Increase Technology Education in Schools: If you have seen “waiting for Superman” then you know the dire straights our inner city schools are facing. With the wealth of free information out there on sites like Khan Academy teachers can incorporate more learning resources than their budgets allow and also promote self discovery and inspire kids to move toward success in this era of “no child left behind.”
  • Subsidize Broadband Access and support Public-Private Partnerships: Whether through neighborhood wifi or discounts, we have to get broadband Internet into the hands of minority youth at home.  The library and school are good but they need it in their homes to change the systematic issues associated with non-adoption and hyper-consumerism.
  • Offer Digital Literacy Training For Adults: Since this issue is not new, we need to bridge the digital literacy gap with working adults so that they are comfortable with technology at home and can encourage their children and peers to be as well.
  • Create Digital Entrepreneurship Incubators: In the Start-up space there are technology incubators (Ycombinator and TechStars are two of many) which help fledgling entrepreneurs get thier company off the ground. The challenge with a lot of these programs is that the entrants come in with a certain set of skills (i.e. usually the ability to code) which causes minorities who lack such skills to shy away from these programs. The government could help by creating entities that train  people on the skills they would need to go into one of these incubator programs or even offer similar preparatory programs for people with a different skill set in the technology arena.
  • Create More Technology Programs For Kids:  Recently the Science and Engineering festival was held on the national mall.  This program was a partnership between corporate and non profit sponsors.  More of these  STEM programs need to happen in inner city schools.  These programs show children the excitement of solving problems with technology.
  • Continue to Give Incentive’s To  Small Businesses: The Small Business Jobs Act that President Obama signed recently was a great first step, they need to continue to give incentives to investors to invest in small business and minority and women-owned businesses as well.
  • Focus On The Real Issues: Our government can only do so much at a time, and should focus on issues like these which will have an immediate impact on people regarding job creation and increased economic opportunity.  Not that they can’t walk and chew gum at the same time, but while the government is accutely focused on contentions issues like those related to Internet regulation, they are less able to focus on issues such as these that can have more immediate impact on the population at large.

Steps have certainly been taken in the right direction under the Obama Administration, but there is much more the government can do to foster innovation and opportunity in the tech space, particularly among minority populations.

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Economic Study Misconstrues Benefits of Computers, Broadband

This post originally appeared on

A recent article in Investor’s Business Daily revealed a startling bias against the potential benefits of broadband, particularly for low-income and minority students.

According to Norm Alster, the article’s author,

[T]he latest research suggests that dumping technology on people actually widens the gap between haves and have-nots.  Kids who are given computers and high-speed Internet begin to slip in math, reading and English.  The impact is worst among the poor students who were supposed to gain the most…

While the study Alster references provides a troubling view about the impact of computers and broadband on our culture, it does not tell the whole story.  As John Horrigan, FCC Consumer Research Director, Omnimus Broadband Initiative noted:

[T]his finding was not as earth-shattering as some may have assumed.  In fact, it is consistent with the findings in the National Broadband Plan: connectivity and hardware matter, but computers and broadband access cannot replace parents, teachers and broader social support as critical inputs into student achievement.  Laptops in the home are not a silver bullet–digital literacy training for parents and teachers, appropriate content for online learning systems, and broader community digital literacy efforts are necessary to ensure children benefit from technology…instructional gains come about only if schools undertake new instructional approaches tethered to technology and if they adopt new practices to support the technology.

So there you have it.  There is no silver bullet.  And while a student may be given access to the implements of a modern economy, absent new methods of learning that compliment these tools, we cannot expect substantial educational gains to result from the mere presence of technology in the home.

What Alster fails to realize, however, is that the Internet is a part of almost every aspect of our lives, from healthcare to education and job creation and everything in between.  Anyone who looks around for a second knows this.   The people who are falling behind in all of these areas — typically minorities and people subsisting in the lowest income brackets — have either chosen not to, or are unable to, adopt broadband into their homes.

We live in an increasingly digital economy, and despite the result of the study described by Alster, broadbad is the single most viable option we have toward increasing positive economic impacts for people of color and for those who have been historically marginalized and underserved.  Were it not such a vital infrastructure for our nation’s recovery, success and prosperity, the Obama Administration likely would not have encouraged Congress to include $7 billion in broadband stimulus in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the FCC would not have gone to such great pains to create our country’s first National Broadband Plan.

While Alster may be personally biased against the substantial investments being made into broadband expansion and use in this country, his is not an attitude we can afford to adopt.  And in fact, it runs counter to the overwhelming evidence that broadband can and must be the critical infrastructure in an information economy – our increasingly digital society.

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