Strategic Overview and Policy Outlook
25 years old, the Internet has grown from humble origins to becoming the engine for innovation in today’s global economy. Because of the growing importance of the Internet in everyday life, HTTP was established soon after passage of the 1996 Communications Act. From its early days, HTTP served as the convener of leading Latino advocates on technology and telecommunications policy issues of national interest. Today, as we approach our 20th anniversary, HTTP once again is poised as a leading voice on policy issues related to all things Latino and the Internet ecosystem.
HTTP recognizes that as the Internet continues to evolve and touch even more important aspects of our lives, it is critical for policy advocates to have a deeper understanding of the complex interactions among policy issues and the implications for Latino communities and consumers. To us, it is clear that Latinos need to ensure that their voices and perspectives be heard and factored into policy development. HTTP again will convene a diverse coalition of national Latino organizations committed to helping segments of the Latino community that are struggling to overcome challenges associated with what many have coined “the digital divide.”
Impressive progress has been made over the past few years to better integrate Latinos nationally into all things Internet. However, as in so many other parts of society, it is difficult to argue that Latinos have kept pace with their non-minority counterparts. Broadband adoption, if not addressed in a comprehensive manner, threatens to condemn future generations of Latinos to 2nd class economic status in the United States and cause a loss of economic opportunity in key areas such as healthcare, education and the Internet of Things.
Through our robust national network of organizations, experts, activists and concerned citizens, HTTP serves as the premier national Latino voice on technology and telecommunications. At conferences, before Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and across our vibrant social media network, HTTP will be a place for differences of opinion, dialogue and thoughtful communication. HTTP will be action oriented and designed to make sure that Latinos are included in and beneficiaries of all the promising innovations being realized through broadband enabled Internet application.
While HTTP will readily recognize and celebrate the many successes in technology and telecommunications that are taking place, we will also focus on policies that can bolster our community by increasing access and adoption to this critical medium, within our community. HTTP intends to be a resource and a solution.
THE ISSUES BEFORE US
One of Intel’s founders, Gordon E. Moore wrote a paper in 1965, now generally known as Moore’s law, hypothesizing that the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every 18 months. More a prediction than a “law”, Moore accurately identified the trend of change in the semiconductor industry and Intel and others utilized that pace of change as an important research and development tool for planning and targeting. Unfortunately, (some might argue fortunately) there is no realistic corollary for the pace of adaptation of our regulatory laws.
Whether it be the need for regulatory modernization away from an outdated framework designed for the monopoly era of the Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) to a structure designed for the realities of today’s competitive marketplace that reflects consumers choices of IP-based alternatives, or cable systems attempting to prevail in a global competition played under inconsistent and often hostile local jurisdictional rules, our country is confronting enormous challenges moving into the future. The blurring of lines between ownership of the means of conveyance and the content to be conveyed and how they are to be regulated have long term consequences for entrepreneurs and the consuming public alike. One of HTTP’s tasks is to make sure that Latinos are part of the process that addresses the challenges and opportunities posed by ever changing technology and a regulatory framework in constant struggle to catch up.
Few seriously contend that technology and free enterprise unfettered will by themselves assure equal access and opportunity for people of color or less economic means. Similarly, few dispute the very real and marvelous innovations and opportunities that have been afforded to most Americans by the existing systems and entities. Three of the fastest technologies ever adopted on a ubiquitous scale were borne of free enterprise – radio, television and cellular telephones. HTTP is committed to encouraging innovation at every turn and the participation of Latinos in that innovation at each one of those turns.
1. Broadband Adoption
The good news is that when it comes to internet adoption through smart phone technologies, Latinos are on par and in many instances are early adopters compared to the general population. When it comes to smart phones, our kids and most of their parents are for the most part “wired”. At least in terms of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and the 3 or 4 invented since this sentence was begun!), Latinos are not disadvantaged by a digital divide. However, cell phones are not serious platforms for job applications, research, homework, business or work from home. Having said that, innovations in tablets may very well provide the nexus between technology and need in a mobile format. All of those platforms, primarily through broadband access, create wealth and help assure full access to the American Dream, and in that regard, Latinos face substantial challenges.
Whether it is because they lack finances, live in underserved urban and rural communities or don’t have fundamental access to high speed internet, Latinos are unfairly separated from the very tools essential to economic competitiveness in a digital and increasingly global economy.
Broadband adoption in the Latino community should not be an either/or proposition. Regardless of socio-economic status or geography, so many aspects of our lives are moving online. Our society has already gone online to consume entertainment, news and information, learn, connect with family and friends, buy and sell goods and services, and participate in social and community causes.
Latinos should not be left behind with lower levels of at-home broadband adoption. While we ensure that community anchor institutions like schools, libraries, and hospitals have high-speed Internet connections, we must also seek policy solutions to advance connectivity into the home.
2. Internet Protocol Transition
The FCC has recently authorized carriers to begin limited “test trials” to explore the best and most efficient way to transition America to all-broadband networks and ultimately decommission the antiquated voice-centric POTS network. From a number of perspectives, this may very well be the most important issue for Latinos. Successful Internet adoption should rightfully include full access to broadband. Will Internet-based networks be introduced first in the more affluent neighborhoods of America with the poor having to wait at the end of the line? And will rural children fall further behind their urban counterparts?
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have a solid record of delivering broadband services across diverse communities in plant operations, and bare great costs for maintaining new and old technologies across a diverse footprint. How can we ensure that new market entrants will make serving low-income communities a similar priority?
HTTP believes that regulators need to carefully balance the equity of full participation with the recognition that the market place is the most rapid and effective agent of change. ISPs should not be required to maintain antiquated technologies for even a moment longer than necessary to transition to the broadband future.
Americans love the Internet and it shows in the traffic jams and congestion that are becoming an unfortunate part of some mobile experiences. Latinos are no different and share a love for consuming rich multimedia over the Internet, binge watching television, streaming music and sharing videos. Just like any roadway that has cars in excess of capacity, it’s time to expand our roads and make sure that the ones we already have are used as efficiently as possible. With today’s modern data-intensive broadband apps and services, network congestion can become an issue.
HTTP believes that the nation’s spectrum policy should include both exclusive licensed spectrum that carriers have used to build out innovative next generation wireless broadband capabilities that consumers enjoy, and unlicensed spectrum that has been successfully used for services such as WiFi (as a complement to larger network deployments). The FCC’s upcoming spectrum incentive auctions are an important part of the nation’s spectrum policy agenda. Thus, it is critical that the FCC establish an auction framework that ensures carriers have the licensed spectrum they need to support consumers’ mobile lives, as well as sufficient unlicensed spectrum for continued innovation and inventions.
HTTP looks forward to working with the FCC and Congress to expand spectrum opportunities for consumers to continue to enjoy innovative and life-enhancing mobile broadband solutions and opportunities and to make sure they do so in a manner that assures Latinos equal opportunity.
4. Health Care & Education
No one knows exactly what the final role of telecommunications will be in health care and education delivery, but everyone who pays any attention understands that it will be profound. Americans still spend more on health care than any developed nation and depending on the ailment, have less successful outcomes than most developed nations. If our nation is behind other developed countries when it comes to health care delivery and improving educational outcomes for students, imagine where economically disadvantaged Americans stand.
Advances in technology will be particularly important to Latinos, whether it be the ability of health care professionals to remotely monitor the well being of patients at home, the ability of our elderly to self report and avoid needless trips to the doctor, or the enhanced capacity to quickly and accurately diagnose and treat illness. Technology and telecommunications will advance preventative care which everyone agrees is the single most cost effective form of health care.
HTTP will be a forum for dialogue on Latino health care issues as impacted by technology and telecommunications, with an emphasis on the outdated rules and regulations that are hindering the deployment and usage of new technologies. Throughout the year, HTTP will also monitor key educational technology issues, such as the federal E-rate program and the ConnectEd initiative. From HTTP’s perspective, E-rate should be all about speed. Every student, not just Latinos, should be connected at school and HTTP intends to advocate strongly for expansion of E-rate.
5. Open Internet :The U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Decision
The issue of Open Internet and network management has been hotly debated for years and has engendered strong disagreements, some well-informed and others, well, less-informed. And while the differences of opinion may not have changed, the realities surrounding the issue have changed profoundly with the January 14, 2014, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision in Verizon v. FCC. It is definitely recommended reading.
The Court laid to rest some questions about the authority of the FCC to regulate the internet, but it also raised new ones and set in motion the potential for dramatic rule changes at the FCC as well as action by Congress. While some have immediately forecast the end of an open internet, HTTP reads the case as far more nuanced and not necessarily at odds with our goal of closing the digital divide between Latinos and affordable broadband access.
HTTP looks forward to continuing to assess the Open Internet issue and communicating with policy makers to ensure that our community continues to enjoy a robust and open Internet.