Louisiana State Senator Sharon Weston Broome, the president of the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative/Women (NOBEL/Women), contributed this article. NOBEL/Women is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization primarily composed of current and former black women legislators as well as appointed officials.
The traditional ‘home phone’ is quickly becoming a rarity, yet the regulations shaping our communications networks are largely unchanged from the days of rotary dials. With millions of people choosing to use wireless and/or Voice over Internet Protocol services instead of the home phone. Today we have the ability to do more with a smartphone that fits in our pockets or a tablet on the go. Americans can also use IP-based (Internet Protocol) platforms such Vonage, Skype and a host of other services to communicate on the Internet with others.
In 2001, the FCC counted 192 million traditional phone “land lines,” but by mid-2011, that number had declined by over 40% as 34 million Americans obtained interconnected VoIP subscriptions – a 55% increase since 2008. By June 2011, 31.6% of American homes had cut the cord and gone wireless-only with over 290 million wireless subscribers nationwide.
Looking deeper into these statistics, we see that minorities account for an even larger percentage of the “new” communications markets. We make up 40% of the wireless market and lead the way in adopting wireless service, devices and applications. According to the Minority Media and Telecom Council (MMTC), wireless is the first technology for which people of color have been the leaders – the first adopters. Thus nationwide affordable wireless service is a gateway to the Holy Grail for minorities – universal first class digital citizenship.
The good news for the consumer is competition in the industry puts pressure on prices and has led to more valuable innovative mobile services. Most importantly, consumers are gaining full control of what they use and how they use it.
Regulators should encourage, not hinder, the transition to an all-IP infrastructure, and through updating our regulations to remove uncertainties and roadblocks we can do just that. Without regulatory intervention or major government subsidies, the broadband marketplace is thriving – which in turn drives innovation, and enables all consumers to join the digital age.
The sooner we are able to transform our communications network to an all-IP infrastructure, the faster consumers will be able to enjoy the benefits of ultra high-speed broadband networks. This would in turn promote universal advanced health care, online learning, job training, and civic engagement by the historically underserved.
An all-IP network promises increased global competitiveness, the creation of new jobs, and economic growth – all things America needs. The faster we allow this to happen the better we’ll all be for it.