As an advocate for the Asian American community, I aim to advance policies that benefit not only my community but all Americans. One great example is promoting the wireless revolution that is creating enormous opportunities for minority communities to flourish. As our networks grow faster and more reliable and our devices become more powerful, these opportunities will continue to expand.
Every day, more and more Asian Americans are using mobile devices to access the Internet. Recent studies show that Asian Americans, followed by other communities of color, are leading the way in smartphone adoption. While these studies do not take into account that certain Asian American subgroups likely have lower adoption rates, it is clear that no one should be denied access to this technology that improves our lives. Major barriers to Internet adoption, such as limited English proficiency, lack of digital literacy skills, and affordability need to be addressed. Yet limited deployment to low-income and rural communities also continues to negatively affect Asian Americans and other communities of color. That’s why I agree with President Obama’s goal of delivering next generation wireless broadband services to 98 percent of Americans by 2016.
But it’s going to take a couple of things to make that happen.
First, we have to make sure the private sector continues to invest in wireless networks and the devices and apps that use them. Last year, wireless service providers spent about $26 billion on building and maintaining the mobile infrastructure needed for wireless connectivity. These expenditures translate into jobs and economic opportunities for our communities. We need that investment to continue, and even increase, if we are to reach the President’s goal. The government must have policies in place that encourage this investment.
Second, more spectrum — the invisible airwaves that carry wireless signals — is required. As the wireless revolution continues to boom, we’ll need more spectrum to meet our growing demand. While recently passed legislation will free up a limited amount of spectrum, the government is the largest holder of spectrum. The government should quickly move to use its spectrum more efficiently and make spectrum available for consumer use. If we can do this, all Americans will be major beneficiaries.
Jason T. Lagria is the Telecommunications and Broadband Policy Staff Attorney at the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), member of the Asian American Center for Advancing Justice. AAJC works to promote universal access and reduce barriers to critical technology and services for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other underserved communities.