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.
In the second Installment of my Interview with Soledad Obrien for Black In America we talk about why I feel no one is will to address the disparity in the number of minorities in the technology space.
My response to the following article on Entrepreneur.com “Creating an Ecosystem for Minority Entrepreneurs“
Whenever issues of diversity are discussed in certain areas our first response is usually to be angry at the fact that we are not being recognized for our current efforts or position in that current industry. When the harsh reality is that is were fully recognized or truly successful in having a significant impact in that given area the question of diversity would not have come up. So instead of being angry we should focus on what the plan is to solve the issues.
This has come up most recently due to the recent Black in America documentary I was involved in. People have been up in arms about the media and people in the doc not recognizing minorities in tech past in current. But I believe focusing on that is short sided. we should look to use these opportunities to create plans on how change the current status Quot. How to put an plan in place that puts more of us in the pipeline to be able to attain these jobs. A plan that educates our youth on how to turn their ideas into real products using themselves as the resource. These type of actions will create real change. So don’t tell me your upset about the lack of diversity unless your committed to being a part of the plan.
Recently I was interviewed on WUF1080am. We talked about a few topics: Technology, Internet adoption, How we get more minorities to take advantage of broadband, and Net Neutrality. Turned into a great conversation. Give it a listen.
“Attend the workshop online!” I wonder exactly when that phrase entered our lives. It is powerful. There was a time when attending a conference meant a big investment, plane tickets, hotels, time out of the office, time away from family. For young visionaries, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and leaders of cash-strapped communities, it was often a burden. Broadband has changed that.
I encourage everyone to attend or watch the workshop the FCC is conducting Dec. 9th on, “Lessons for the National Broadband Plan for Local Officials Representing Under-served Communities” in Washington, DC. This is the next meeting in the ongoing FCC Broadband Workshop series. In addition to participating individually, encourage your city, state and community leaders to send a representative or, of course, participate online. Let them know that broadband access is important to you, but even more important to the children and students in your community. The FCC is also accepting comments and questions from the public, so submit suggestions here.
To register for the workshop in advance, or view the webinar on the day of the event, visit http://www.broadband.gov/ws_underserved_communities.html
Unfortunately, everything these days seems to be framed around politics and ideology, red or blue, left or right, R or D. Some so-called pundits have already figured out the next wave of political fortunes — just based on the elections this week in New York, Virginia, and New Jersey – and what that will mean to proposed policies and ideas.
Changing lives and creating hope, and embracing the full power of broadband access, should not be hijacked by politics. It is a goal that transcends partisanship. I was reminded of that this week, thanks to a column in the Houston Chronicle. David Cohen of Comcast and Rey Ramsey of One Economy Corp. point out that only 63 percent of Americans subscribe to broadband at home. “Recent studies show that a staggering number of senior citizens, minorities, disabled and non-English speakers are unconnected. Broadband can improve our health care, our education, our productivity and make us all more connected — but that’s only for the plugged-in,” they write.
I encourage you to read the column and see how broadband has changed lives in Detroit and Houston, and even the last paragraph has a lesson we need more than ever. “This, we think, is the secret to promoting broadband adoption — showing the unconnected just how dramatically broadband can change their lives, both professionally and personally. And that’s a goal behind which Democrats, Republicans and independents can rally.”
First let me start by saying that I’m not in politics or a policy maker. I am a technologist and have been involved in technology for over 15 years, and I can honestly say that technology has had a significant effect on my life. The birth of the Internet has granted opportunities and access to knowledge I would not have obtained otherwise. I have created companies out of the comfort of my home and connected with clients that never met me face-to-face. I have been empowered to lead my career in the direction I wanted. Without the Internet I would not be where I am today.
Recently, I have become more familiar with the activities of the FCC, including net neutrality regulations being debated in Washington. Net Neutrality is the claim that prescribing rules and restrictions on how content is accessed and transmitted on the Internet is the singular path to a “free” or “open” Internet. However, I would argue that before the Internet can be truly “neutral” there has to be equal access to it, and these regulations do not support that goal. We still do not have full deployment of broadband Internet to underserved communities, which are disproportionately rural, poor, and/or minority communities. We need to have digital literacy programs that educate these communities on the uses of broadband so their members are aware of the opportunities it offers them. We cannot allow the playing field to be limited. Making sure these communities have access in the first place should be a higher priority than trying to limit it in any way.
A recent PEW study showed that less than 50% of African Americans have adopted broadband. Although that statistic increases some for other minority groups, it’s still a far cry from what adoption rates could look like considering that broadband in available to 92% percent of Americans. These figures provide a simple lesson: huge segments of our population are underrepresented in the discussion of what I’ll call ‘net values,’ and we need to get these people active and counted. Right now the net neutrality issue is a rich man’s issue, where certain companies and organizations are focused on having rules in place for profiting on future growth and using people’s fears to make believe this is in the best interest of the “people.” What’s really in the best interests of the people is focusing on ways to increase broadband adoption. The Internet allowed me access to opportunity, and we need to give that same opportunity to others. Many of the issues that are facing our country, from healthcare to job creation, to public safety and improving education and our energy consumption, could all be improved by universal access to broadband and additional understanding about on how it can be used to empower the masses.
The Internet today is a place where new entrepreneurs can break down old and outdated business models everyday. It is a place where a young minority kid from the inner city could gain all of the knowledge he or she needs to be successful.
Now, imagine how much more could happen if everyone had access to broadband. It is my goal through this blog to bring awareness to the issues and opportunities that I feel people should be thinking about when it comes to high-speed Internet access. I hope that through this process more people will become interested in learning about the infinite possibilities of the Internet.
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.