Blog

Latino Leader Says It’s Time to Hold Comcast Accountable

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Raquel Donoso, Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood (Comunidad Promesa de la Mission) at the Mission Economic Development Agency.

"An opportunity like this rarely comes along, and it will go a very long way to finally close the Digital Divide in California and set an important threshold for regulators across the country."

One month ago, California Public Utilities Commission Administrative Law Judge Karl Bemesderfer issued a proposed decision that spells out conditions to which Comcast must agree before gaining CPUC approval of its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. The full commission has the final say and is expected to vote on the proposed conditions in six weeks.

Simply put, if the CPUC commissioners show bold leadership, many parts of California, including underserved parts of the East Bay, will finally have access to affordable high-speed Internet at home.

 

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On Digital Learning Day, Let’s Support Internet For All Now

 

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A Western Elementary School student interviews Sunne Wright McPeak

By Sunne Wright McPeak

For California and the nation to remain a global leader of innovation, we must close the Achievement Gap among K-12 students.  But that goal will remain elusive unless we first close the Digital Divide.  Today we celebrate Digital Learning Day, and the great promise that technology can bring when integrated successfully in the classroom and at home.  

Digital learning in the 21st Century means far more than computers in the classroom. 

Let’s start with the basics.  Many students still lack a high-speed Internet connection at home.  While significant progress has been made in increasing home Internet use, the sad news is that 25%—a full quarter of the U.S. and California populations—remain stuck on the wrong side of the Digital Divide.  These households are mostly in urban poor neighborhoods and remote rural areas. 

The last two statewide Annual Surveys have confirmed that these residents are up against the “wall of poverty”—inter-related factors and forces that constitute a huge barrier to overcome and escape—resulting in low-income households being left behind at an accelerating pace.  Four of ten Latino California households do not have Internet at home, according to the 2014 Annual Survey conducted by the Field Research Corporation which included support from the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF).  Fifty percent of households earning less than $20,000 a year do not have Internet at home. 

Low-income families without home Internet (which requires a computing device and Digital Literacy) can’t apply for most jobs, take an online course to improve workforce skills, bank online, access online public services, or communicate with their child’s school.  Having access to a computer and high-speed Internet at home is essential to learn the skills necessary to move out of poverty and close the Achievement Gap.  California public school students are now required to take assessment tests on a computing device and those without daily experience at home using a computing device—desktop, laptop or tablet—will be at a significant disadvantage.

These are the reasons why the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) is so focused on driving to results with accountability. It is why CETF developed and launched School2Home, and why CETF is working strategically to reshape public policy so it integrates technology into the solutions of most major societal challenges—education, workforce training, healthcare, infrastructure, economic development— concepts referred to as Digital Inclusion and Neighborhood Transformation.

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The Fresno Bee Opinion

Hugo Morales: CPUC Can Close Digital Divide

Morales-hugo_002_2012.JPG    By Hugo Morales   Published:  February 23, 2015 

You probably didn’t feel the earth shake Feb. 13, but the news from San Francisco has the potential to impact the San Joaquin Valley in ways never felt before.

California Public Utilities Commission Administrative Law Judge Karl Bemesderfer issued a proposed decision that spells out conditions that Comcast must agree to before gaining CPUC approval of its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. The CPUC has the final say and is expected to vote on the proposed conditions March 26.

Simply put, if the CPUC commissioners show bold leadership, many parts of the San Joaquin Valley served by Comcast will finally have the tools to join the Digital Age.

We live in a region in which 4 of 10 households still do not have fixed broadband, meaning hundreds of thousands of our family members, friends, and neighbors do not have home access to the educational, economic and health care opportunities necessary to succeed and thrive in the 21st century.

Comcast is the major Internet service provider in many parts of the San Joaquin Valley, and the proposed conditions would put affordable broadband in reach of many of these unconnected residents.

Many of us who work to improve education and the lives of low-income residents — including First 5 Fresno County, California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, Fresno Barrios Unidos, Great Valley Center, San Joaquin Valley Regional Broadband Consortium and Radio Bilingüe — have been advocating for the kinds of conditions in the proposed decision. It is the role of the judge to look at all of the recommendations, including Comcast’s, and weigh the benefit the company receives from the merger with the benefit the public should receive.

I applaud the fairness and foresight, and the extensive study and work, of CPUC Judge Bemesderfer and commission staff.

 

 

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Foundations to Tackle Inequality through Internet Access

by Sunne Wright McPeak

On February 4, 2015 the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that several foundation heavy hitters, including the Ford, Knight, MacArthur, Mozilla, and Open Society foundations, had formed a partnership to figure out how to get the Internet to live up to its potential as a tool for social justice.

I applaud the announcement by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Mozilla Foundation, Open Society Foundations and Ford Foundation that they are joining forces to promote open and accessible Internet to increase opportunity in the Digital Age.

The rigorous debates over net neutrality and the protection of civil liberties are important.  What cannot be lost in the “partnership to figure out how to get the Internet to live up to its potential as a tool for social justice” is the need for everyone to have access to high-speed Internet at home. The current debates do not guarantee affordable or accessible Internet to the 80 million people in the U.S. stuck on the wrong side of the Digital Divide.  

As the Mayor Bill de Blasio and the foundation leaders expressed, now is the time for philanthropic groups to step up focus on getting more low-income households connected to high-speed Internet and realizing its benefits.

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Statement on Net Neutrality

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By California Emerging Technology Fund President and CEO Sunne Wright McPeak

As the Federal Communications Commission debates new telecom policies, it is critical to recognize that net neutrality does not guarantee affordability or accessibility for the one in four people – 80 million people in the U.S. – living without home high-speed Internet today.  In some urban cores, 50% of homes do not have broadband.  Affordable Internet is a 21st Century civil right in a Digital World.

The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) knows first-hand from being in the trenches that the most disadvantaged populations and impoverished neighborhoods are up against a "wall of poverty" that demands action from elected officials, regulators and policymakers at all levels.

In California, nearly 10 million people live without high-speed Internet.  America and California need a strong national policy for affordable high-speed Internet service.  We urge Commissioners at the FCC and California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), if they are to approve corporate consolidations, to require the companies to offer quality Internet at affordable rates to all low-income households. The FCC also needs to make overhauling the national Lifeline program for broadband a top priority. 

Affordable Internet Is a Civil Rights Issue

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By Bob Cabeza, Vice President, YMCA of Greater Long Beach

When we have situations where young people who are low-income don’t have access to affordable broadband, we are creating a two- class system.

We’re not going to have a divide of just rich or poor any longer, we are going to have a divide of those who have access to knowledge and those who don’t.  This is a civil rights issue.

FCC, if you are going to approve the Comcast-Time Warner merger:

  • Please make sure the company will:
  • Expand Affordable Access
  • Increase the Number Low-cost Subscribers
  • Fund Trusted Messengers
  • And Be Accountable!

Net Neutrality and Public Utility: Do Latinos Really Oppose Internet Regulation?

 

By Mari D. González

At its origins, the Internet was perceived and used mainly for information purposes. We derived the name "information age" from it. The Internet has since evolved into many things and some of those are essential to our daily lives such as communicating with the world—staying in touch with loved ones, finding employment, running a business, helping our kids with their homework, and paying our bills.

If a survey of well informed Latinos and African Americans were conducted, they would likely skew with the general population, not understand the intricacies of the corporate Internet issues and yet understand how we, the users, have come to depend on it. And, thus these communities would agree that new policy needs to be in place to classify it appropriately.

An article at Rollcall.com argues that minorities oppose Internet regulation because if it was regulated, investment will decrease and Internet costs will increase. Thus, Internet will become even more inaccessible to low-income Latino families. This argument has been debunked recently. According to last month's article by Jesse Torres in the Huffingtonpost, "Verizon's CEO has admitted to its investors that strong Net Neutrality rules treating ISPs as common carriers would not hurt investment."

Torres also notes that some civil rights organizations also oppose strong and enforceable Net Neutrality rules because they enjoy a close relationship with the major phone and cable companies including some that "receive significant financial donations from industry players like Comcast." So how are Latino consumers to make a decision whether pro or con?

What would drive cost is the increasing market share companies, such as Comcast, have accrued and the power that comes with less competition—more control over content and higher data costs. Even more alarming is the fact that Comcast will be able to reach 91% of Latino market. Presente.org, an online advocacy group emphasizes that with such control over the Hispanic market, Spanish-language content developed by Latinos will be at minimum. Comcast will have total control and will get to decide the content. 

The principle of Net Neutrality is that Internet service providers "should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites." Why would Latinos, or any advocacy group, disagree with Net Neutrality when their online activism has become their true voice?

A hotly debated point at the heart of Net Neutrality is protecting the Internet by classifying major providers as common carriers. First, we need to understand what common carriers are and to separate that from the concept of government regulation, which many people may perceive as the government regulating our online content. Government regulation of common carriers intends to regulate the Internet Service Provider companies to ensure equity in access to the public.  

If we want Latinos to enter the Net Neutrality debate and speak for themselves, whether pro or con, we need to ensure they are able to access the Internet first and foremost. A vital step is to support affordable Internet for all low-income families so their voices are heard and they can participate in the Internet economy. The InternetForAllNow campaign, sponsored by California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) seeks to ensure affordable Internet which Net Neutrality, while important, will not ensure. You can demand affordable Internet for all now by taking action. You can also text InternetForAll to 52886 or InternetParaTodos to 52886.

 

* "Common carriage prohibits the owner of a network, that holds itself out to all-comers, from discriminating against information by halting, slowing, or otherwise tampering with the transfer of any data (except for legitimate network management purposes such as easing congestion or blocking spam)."

 

About the Author:

Mari D. González is a Cross-cultural Communication Consultant who specializes in Latino/Hispanic culture. She received a Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Relations (MAIR) from the University of the Pacific. Her graduate school research focused on the junction between digital marketing and the emerging bilingual, second-generation Latino/Hispanic ethnic identity, acculturation, and linguistic preferences. She teaches Social Media Communications at UC Berkeley Extension. Mari can be contacted via email at gonzalezmarid@gmail.com or visit Ixmati to learn more.