Home » Digital Divide » White House Spotlights Latinos, Importance of Broadband

By: Jason Llorenz, Executive Director
July 13, 2011

On July 11 and 12, the White House hosted a comprehensive two-day conference on issues of concern to the Hispanic community — including the importance of broadband expansion.  The White House Hispanic Policy Conference brought community leaders from across the country together with a broad range of White House and Cabinet officials for an in-depth series of substantive conversations on the Administration’s efforts in the Hispanic community.

Rural broadband access, broadband adoption and high speed Internet deployment into underserved communities were are key parts of the discussion. Anna Gomez, Deputy Administrator for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), lead a panel discussion dedicated to examining broadband and the Hispanic community. Deputy Administrator Gomez had been active recently participating in Hispanic events focusing on technology and posting a blog about the importance of broadband access as a key tool for improving Hispanic communities.

The Deputy Administrator notes that, through broadband, Latinos are able to connect to better economic opportunities, health care, and education.  “NTIA’s data show that although 90-95 percent of Americans live in areas with access to broadband, only 68 percent of households subscribe to the service,” Gomez writes.  “In fact, more than 28 percent of Americans do not use the Internet in any location, which means they are cut off from countless educational and job opportunities.”

For Hispanics, the home broadband adoption gap couldn’t be clearer: “While the Internet subscribership rate for Hispanics increased by five percentage points last year, it is still only 45 percent. Even after adjusting for socioeconomic factors like income and education, Latinos still significantly lag the national rate in broadband adoption.”  This is especially true for those vulnerable populations, the elderly, minorities and those living in remote and rural communities.

Gomez cites the NTIA broadband grant program as a means of addressing the disparity. Advocates know that relevance and affordability continue to be determining factors for whether a person will adopt the Internet across their daily lives.  While “a $4 billion Recovery Act investment in high-speed Internet infrastructure, public computer centers, and broadband adoption initiatives” is significant, targeted efforts are needed for Hispanics to translate the benefits Latinos realize in mobile broadband use into home broadband adoption.

From a broader view, the conference was noteworthy for its depth of access and content.  Participants interacted with federal policy makers on issues ranging from job creation and strengthening the economy, expanding access to affordable and quality health care, reforming our nation’s education system, protecting civil rights, and fixing the broken immigration system.

Representing various agencies and offices, the Administration convened key team members from the National Economic Council, the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of Management and Budget, the White House Domestic Policy Council, the White House Initiative for Educational Excellence for Hispanics, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Small Business Administration, the Department of the Treasury, the General Services Administration, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. is Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Telecommunications Partnership (HTTP).
Follow HTTP on Twitter:  @hispanicttp.

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