Moments before a meeting with President Barack Obama focused on the National Urban League’s Job Initiative, the organization’s President and CEO Marc Morial delivered a rousing address during Thursday’s Broadband Adoption Luncheon at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council’s 9th Annual Access to Capital and Telecommunications Policy Conference.
“America is in crisis today when it comes to our economy,” he said. “We are continuing to weather the greatest economic crisis the nation has faced since the great depression. So no discussion – not debt ceilings, not debt reduction, not telecommunications policy, not tax policy – should be done in isolation from the essential question: Will it create jobs? Not hypothetically, not rhetorically, not on a spin sheet or talking point, but will it really, really create jobs and economic opportunity.” He then challenged those in attendance to make jobs and economic opportunity a central feature of their work.
Seeing broadband as an economic catalyst and job creator for minority communities, Morial later reflected on the National Urban League’s recent support of the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile Merger.
“It’s always fair to criticize what people think and what people do,” he said. “What probably got under my skin more than anything was this idea, or this notion, that civil rights organizations should have no voice in such a transaction, that somehow we’re supposed to limit ourselves to a set of preordained issues that others ordain.
“Every issue that happens in this country is our business. We have the intelligence, we have the expertise, we have the know-how to think for ourselves, to analyze and evaluate issues for ourselves. We need to understand that in the course of these discussions we are not going to allow anyone to disrespect our right to sit at the table on the very important and big issues that face this nation at this time, because this nation needs our voice.”
According to Morial in remarks to Politic365, “We have to remember that in telecom, wireless is still new and cutting edge. So to the extent we understand wireless policy, to the extent we understand the job creating possibilities, somebody’s got to build these towers, somebody’s got to build and sell these devices, somebody’s got to create the content, the programming that makes this work. We’ve got to talk to people about the range of opportunities.”
“Merger conditions,” he said to the luncheon crowd, “have to drive minority business opportunities.” He spoke specifically to the issue of asset divestitures as a prime opportunity ripe for exploitation by minority entrepreneurs. “Spectrum allocation and [other asset divestitures are] a new area where we are on the front side of the debate. And our voices collectively have to be loud and strong and intelligent in encouraging that this allocation not simply reinforce old divides, or that this reallocation allows the big to get bigger and the small to fall by the wayside.”
Morial also championed urban business incubators and mini-technology campuses, tax certificates and incentives for investment in communities of color, saying that “building strong minority participation in this industry is in the public interest.”
“It is in the public interest and it is the public interest to do that,” he said.
Lauding MMTC and the people on the front lines as new civil rights champions, “we’re fighting against a digital divide,” Morial said, “and so we’ve got to raise awareness about adoption and utilization, jobs and business opportunity. This is a simple, simple formula, but we’ve got to have the will. We need business, we need regulators, we need advocacy organizations to be all in the game to recognize that we’re not only creating jobs, we’re creating a tool of empowerment.”
This article by Kristal High originally appeared on Politic365.