Broadband is a recognized platform that enables users to access and build upon opportunities contained in the network. On the national stage, recognizing the potential presented by the medium, broadband is also becoming a valuable commodity for any political platform.
The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council has long believed that broadband access, adoption, and informed use is the civil rights issue of our time. A recent White House report on broadband echoes this message, illustrating the importance of broadband to domestic growth. The report describes the current state of domestic broadband, administrative actions that fostered broadband development, and opportunities for broadband expansion and service to all.
In a nutshell, broadband is the key to societal and economic growth. Broadband, and in particular mobile broadband, is helping us overcome the digital divide by providing a unique access point for people of color. The White House recommends building on the success of wireless by encouraging innovation in spectrum sharing and use. Further, the White House seeks increased broadband speeds at schools and community anchor institutions, which would address the digital literacy divide while boosting the educational system and preparing youth to meet the demands of the modern workforce.
Network investment has provided government an opportunity to shine. The report lauded administrative policies that boosted the broadband ecosystem: federal investment, the increase of spectrum available for commercial use, and tax incentives fostered exponential private investment in the infrastructure – to a degree that investments by two of the largest U.S. telcos comprised more “stateside investment than the top five oil/gas companies, and nearly four times more than the big three auto companies combined.”
The White House report also outlined the current state of broadband to show the triumphs and opportunities for future success. It explained that broadband is not only good for individuals, at a value of about two percent of a consumer’s income, but also good for businesses, and good for the economy. The report cited studies that illustrate that the Internet has added $34 billion annually to GDP growth. Further, the report emphasized that increasing broadband penetration and broadband speeds has a positive impact on GDP growth.
Access to high-speed wireline and wireless broadband is increasing. More than 80 percent of Americans have access to mobile broadband, and 93 percent of Americans have access to fixed broadband. U.S. mobile broadband can produce some of the fastest wireless connections in the world.
Despite the availability of broadband connections, we must continue to increase access and adoption of wired networks, which the report notes “often provides the most robust connections.” We must also increase the speeds of mobile networks and technologies to harness the full innovative potential of the wireless evolution. Finally, we must continue working to close the home broadband adoption gap influenced by race, income, education, and geography, by overcoming the primary adoption barriers of price, relevance, and digital literacy.
Finally, despite the challenges, we must succeed in achieving universal broadband access, adoption, and informed use. The President and his Administration have strengthened their legacy by prioritizing broadband development.
- Jacqueline Clary is the John W. Jones Fellow at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council. In this position, she focuses on a variety of policy issues to advance minority participation in the media and telecommunications industries. Ms. Clary earned her B.A. from John Carroll University, her J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law, and is a member of the New York State Bar.