Light reg­u­la­tory touch eases way for His­pan­ics to lead wire­less charge

Austin American-Statesman - - OPINION -

The Pew In­ter­net and Amer­i­can Life Project just re­leased a sur­vey that found that six out of 10 Amer­i­cans rely on wire­less technology — a mo­bile phone or lap­top — to ac­cess the In­ter­net. Among the par­tic­u­larly com­pelling find­ings: English-speak­ing His­pan­ics and African Amer­i­cans are lead­ing the way in mo­bile con­nec­tiv­ity and us­ing wire­less as their on ramp to the In­ter­net.

The sur­vey de­ter­mined that 87 per­cent of English-speak­ing His­pan­ics in the U.S. own a cell phone, com­pared with 80 per­cent of whites. And 53 per­cent of these His­pan­ics ac­cess the In­ter­net from their mo­bile phones. His­pan­ics also lead in their use of mo­bile data ap­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing: tak­ing pic­tures, send­ing and re­ceiv­ing text mes­sages, ac­cess­ing the In­ter­net, send­ing and re­ceiv­ing e-mail, watch­ing videos and us­ing so­cial net­work­ing sites.

I am proud our com­mu­nity is lead­ing the way in wire­less us­age and am ex­cited to see how this adop­tion can help bol­ster the com­mu­nity as a whole — from en­tre­pre­neur­ial op­por­tu­ni­ties and im­prov­ing health care to ed­u­ca­tional devel­op­ment and greater pub­lic safety.

In fact, the Pew study re­in­forces many of the find­ings from a 2009 in-depth re­port re­leased by the His­panic In­sti­tute and Mo­bile Fu­ture ex­am­in­ing mo­bile broad­band’s im­pact on the His­panic com­mu­nity.

The study, “His­panic Broad­band Ac­cess: Mak­ing the Most of the Mo­bile, Con­nected Fu­ture,” il­lus­trates how ad­vance­ments in wire­less broad­band are de­moc­ra­tiz­ing ed­u­ca­tional and en­tre­pre­neur­ial op­por­tu­ni­ties.

His­pan­ics tra­di­tion­ally have lagged be­hind other groups in adopt­ing broad­band con­nec­tions at home. But that’s clearly not the case with wire­less. While the His­panic com­mu­nity is grow­ing at a rapid pace, the wire­less sec­tor is evolv­ing just as quickly. With op­por­tu­ni­ties and prod­ucts emerg­ing daily, con­sumers are able to se­lect what’s best for them from a vast se­lec­tion of plans, ap­pli­ca­tions and ser­vices.

But this didn’t hap­pen by ac­ci­dent. The wire­less sec­tor has grown tremen­dously in a short pe­riod of time be­cause pol­icy mak­ers wisely set a light touch frame­work that put con­sumers in charge of the mar­ket and en­cour­aged in­vest­ment, in­no­va­tion and growth. This led to in­creased re­search and devel­op­ment for cut­ting-edge wire­less ser­vices and vi­brant wire­less net­works con­nect­ing count­less com­mu­ni­ties like ours that oth­er­wise might have been left be­hind.

This year, the Fed­eral Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Com­mis­sion re­leased an am­bi­tious Na­tional Broad­band Plan to help en­sure that no one ends up on the wrong side of the dig­i­tal di­vide. The FCC set a ter­rific goal, but in or­der to meet its ob­jec­tives, reg­u­la­tors must avoid im­pos­ing any rules that could de­ter the growth and in­no­va­tion we see in wire­less, in­clud­ing try­ing to reg­u­late the In­ter­net through so­called Net neu­tral­ity rules or at­tempt­ing to mi­cro-man­age the highly com­pet­i­tive wire­less sec­tor.

By main­tain­ing the cur­rent light-touch reg­u­la­tory ap­proach, wire­less technology in­vestors and in­no­va­tors will con­tinue to be spurred by ro­bust mar­ket op­por­tu­ni­ties and healthy com­pe­ti­tion.

The re­sult? A con­sumer-driven in­dus­try that is nar­row­ing the gap by of­fer­ing new cut­ting-edge prod­ucts and ser­vices to mil­lions of mo­bile sub­scribers.

To­day’s wire­less sec­tor is con­nect­ing Amer­i­can con­sumers in ways we never dreamed pos­si­ble. But putting rules in place that could sti­fle this vi­brant sec­tor would be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, and in to­day’s chal­leng­ing econ­omy, this is a gam­ble that nei­ther Main Street nor Wall Street can af­ford to lose.

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