Tomorrow, as part of the National Conference of Black Mayors 38th Annual Convention in Atlanta, there will be a panel event titled “The Wireless Spectrum Crisis: Its Impact on Underserved Communities.”
This will be an important event on an important issue. The mobile broadband revolution — and I think it’s safe to call it a revolution at this point — has helped America make a major dent in its digital divide. Just take a look at some numbers from Pew:
Nearly two-thirds of African-Americans (64%) and Latinos (63%) are wireless internet users, and minority Americans are significantly more likely to own a cell phone than are their white counterparts (87% of black and Hispanics own a cell phone, compared with 80% of whites).
We can all agree it’s critical for America to keep this positive trend going — not just for the digital divide, but for our country’s economic rebound. But the threat of a spectrum shortage — one that could grind innovation to a crawl and hurt consumers with higher prices — has the potential to be a major roadblock.
This is something Minority Media & Telecom Council (MMTC) President and co-founder David Honig recently touched on during an appearance at the World Conference of Mayors Broadband Symposium in Alabama. Broadband & Social Justice’s Marcella Gadson covered Honig’s speech, and wrote:
“The relative affordability of mobile wireless broadband use versus costs for home broadband use sparked some to describe this phenomenon as the ‘minority wireless miracle,’” [Honig] stated. However, “Since African Americans are disproportionately relying on mobile wireless broadband for Internet access, they will be [disproportionately] affected if the supply of commercial spectrum is not increased.”
The spectrum crunch can be a hard issue to wrap your head around. After all, spectrum isn’t something we can see. But the effects of a spectrum shortage will be very visible, and with demand for mobile broadband threatening to soon outstrip the supply of spectrum for mobile use, conversations like tomorrow’s event in Atlanta are an absolute necessity.
IIA will have more coverage of the “The Wireless Spectrum Crisis: Its Impact on Underserved Communities” panel during and after the event. To follow along, use the hashtag #ncbmspectrum.