by Mario H. Lopez

Hispanic Heritage Month began in 1968. Two decades later, it was officially recognized when it was enacted into law by President Reagan.

Since that time, America’s Hispanic community has experienced significant economic and social advancement. Given IIA’s mission to advocate for the expansion of broadband service across the country, I’d like to focus on the inroads that have been made in the Hispanic community with respect to broadband access and adoption.

According to Pew, 68% of Hispanics now own a cellphone, and of that number, 60% mostly use their phones to go online. That’s not too surprising; Hispanics have for years been among the most active adopters of mobile broadband, and as smartphones have proliferated wildly, that rate of growth should continue.

As for home broadband connections, however, the numbers are less promising. In its May survey, Pew also found that a little over half — 53% — of Hispanic households had high-speed Internet. That’s compared to 74% of whites, and 64% of African Americans.

Given the importance of broadband to access education, economic opportunity, telemedicine, and employment, our nation should rededicate itself to encourage additional investment in next-generation wired and wireless networks throughout the country.  These networks help power the devices we use today, and will use tomorrow.

Mobile broadband has greatly benefitted the Hispanic community.  Yet, mobile broadband represents just one part of the solution needed to achieve universal high-speed Internet access connectivity for all—irrespective of one’s geographic location or social status.

Achieving the goal of bringing every American into the digital age, won’t be cheap. But as with bringing universal telephone service to every household a century ago, it can be achieved when government allows for the creation of an economic environment that allows innovation and ingenuity to flourish.

America has always had a strong, and diverse, social fabric. It’s one of the reasons why we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. And communications has been key to creating that social fabric. We are connected as a nation, and together we can ensure everyone in America can remain connected, no matter how we communicate.

Mario H. Lopez is President of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, an IIA member organization.