Posts Taged minorities

As Broadband Use Grows The Gaps Remain In The Same Places

There was a recent article on Forbes.com 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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Reaching and Engaging Minorities Online

Click the image to watch the video from the event

Yesterday I was invited to speak on a panel about this at the Politics Online Conference http://polc2010.com.   It was interesting to see the political world looking for ways to embrace the Internet.  There were vendors showing off online tools  and apps on Ipads. With sponsors like AOL and Microsoft I felt like i was at the Web 2.0 conference in San Fran but I was right in the heart of DC.  Our panel focused on how businesses and campaigns can reach minorities audiences online and the things they need to consider. There was a good  some good discussion during the panel. Click on the link above and let me know me know your thoughts.

Who Can We Trust?

Public Knowledge, an organization representing what I would call “digital elites,” has joined with other elite activist groups to push the FCC to adopt so-called Net Neutrality rules.  To do this, Public Knowledge uses carefully chosen words like “neutrally,” “openness” and “discrimination.” I find myself wondering whether they have any idea what these words mean.  As they insist that net neutrality will benefit minorities, I have serious doubts.

First, Public Knowledge suggests that our civil rights leaders and minority elected officials are not intelligent enough to think for themselves.  Public Knowledge has questioned our leaders’ desire to ensure that our communities have access to and beneficial use of broadband services. With African American unemployment at 15.4%, Public Knowledge mocks their concerns that minorities without broadband access can’t compete for jobs.  When the African American broadband adoption rate is only 2/3 of that for White Americans, Public Knowledge dismisses our leaders’ support for a National Broadband Plan focused on increasing adoption and use.  With African American men earning 25 percent less than their white counterparts, Public Knowledge scoffs at our leaders’ desire to ensure that public policy promotes affordable broadband.   When our leaders ask legitimate and respectful questions about the possible unintended consequences of net neutrality rules, Public Knowledge shows them the back of their hand.

Public Knowledge even suggests that the concerns of all minorities are only directed at, or merit the attention of, the “African American” Commissioner Mignon Clyburn.   This statement reminds me of a time in our past when outright racial appeals and stereotypes polluted the stream of public discourse.  This should not be tolerated.

I believe all of the FCC Commissioners respect and share the concerns of minority elected officials and civil rights leaders.  I’m confident that they will respond by addressing our leaders’ request for full research and analysis before any rules are adopted that could have adverse results for broadband adoption.

I also applaud African American leaders and scores of Democratic members of Congress who had the wisdom to flash a “caution light” about the unintended consequences of net neutrality rules.  And I detest the effort by Public Knowledge and its allies to brand them as “deserters” and “unAmerican” because their views are not in lockstep with Public Knowledge.

The really ironic thing about Public Knowledge’s insistence that questions must not be asked about their demand for new Internet rules is this: how does the public obtain knowledge if it cannot even ask questions?  I want to see Public Knowledge and its allies drop their presumptuousness and stop pretending that they speak for our communities. Our diverse public has the knowledge, and the right, to speak for itself.

Let me restate our concerns:

    * The risk that a regressive pricing mandate that net neutrality rules could impose will shift online costs to the poor is real.
    * The risk that over-regulation will depress deployment and access is real.
    * The risk that restrictions on network management will reduce the quality and reliability of Internet service for light users — students, the poor on fixed incomes, the elderly, and community organizers who rely on Internet access to reach their communities – is real.

Net neutrality advocates would serve their cause well if they would stop attacking the intelligence and integrity of minority and other Democratic leaders, and stop writing off genuine disagreements or concerns about the potential effects of these regulations.  I ask net neutrality advocates to pause for a moment, start listening to what minorities are saying, and then consider how best to close the digital divide. They should humbly reflect on whether or not net neutrality could be implemented in a manner that is certain to close the digital divide and not just feed the bandwidth desires of the digital elite, a move that would shift costs to low-volume, low-income consumers.

Low barriers to entry are what make the Internet fertile ground for entrepreneurs and activists to disrupt the landscape with new ideas.  We cannot raise these barriers before disadvantaged populations, who have been historically disenfranchised, have the opportunity to enter the field.  I would not have had the success that I’ve had in my life had the Internet not been available to me in the way that it is now.  And I would be doing a disservice to my community if I did not work to make sure it stays that way.

The public has the right to know the answers. That is what we mean by “public knowledge.”  I urge the organization with that name to behave like they mean it.