By Jason Llorenz, LIN@R
Two positions are to be filled – the chairmanship, which is being vacated by Julius Genachowski, who has taken a post as senior fellow at the Aspen Institute’s Communications and Society program, and Commissioner Robert McDowell. And the stakes are high.
The current FCC heralded reforms and new programs with long-term consequences. Under Chairman Genachowski, the issues of digital literacy and broadband adoption have been pursued with great success.
The achievements have included the Internet Essentials program, which was negotiated as a part of the Comcast-NBC-Universal merger, the Connect 2 Compete program and a slew of reforms, including to the universal service fund – a complex, $9 billion national fund that, over time, will be better used to close the last gaps in broadband deployment. All these reforms seemed nearly impossible just a few years ago.
Digital literacy and universal participation in the Internet economy are among the issues underpinning American competitiveness in the global, digital economy. Broadband access has equalized in many regards – due especially to adoption of high-speed wireless broadband. But broader measures of digital participation, including home broadband adoption, and digital entrepreneurship, remain lower for Latinos, African Americans, and poor communities.
The most recent studies report Latinos and African Americans, combined, attracting about 1% of all tech venture capital dollars.
The national civil rights community wants new commissioners to pay attention to diversity. This week, the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council (MMTC), joined by 50 national organizations, submitted a letter to the White House urging nomination of FCC members committed to promoting diversity and inclusion. The coalition’s letter states,
“Minority and women’s participation in broadcast ownership are particularly at risk, as they continue todecline rapidly. As the nation becomes increasingly diverse, the signators encourage our President to address these issues by nominating leaders who will assign the highest priority to racial and ethnic minority and women’s participation in the nation’s most influential industries.”
MMTC’s blog post underscores “the representation of women and minorities in media and telecom ownership, procurement, and employment remains disproportionately low in industries overseen by the FCC. These industries collectively represent one sixth of our nation’s economy.”
The next FCC will be charged with advancing full participation in innovation, fostering an environment that ensures the continued growth of next-generation technologies, and bringing the benefits of that innovation to every community in the country.
This article was first published in LIN@R.
Jason A. Llorenz, Esq. Is Senior Fellow, Latino Information Network (LIN@R), Rutgers University School of Communication and Information Studies; he is also Director of Innovation Policy for LIN@R. Follow him on Twitter @llorenzesq and follow LIN@R technology tweets@LINAR_technolog.
[Photo by San José Library]