Mobile Future

Contreras: Light regulatory touch eases way for Hispanics to lead wireless charge

The Pew Internet and American Life Project just released a survey that found that six out of 10 Americans rely on wireless technology a mobile phone or laptop to access the Internet. Among the particularly compelling findings: English-speaking Hispanics and African Americans are leading the way in mobile connectivity and using wireless as their on ramp to the Internet.

The survey determined that 87 percent of English-speaking Hispanics in the U.S. own a cell phone, compared with 80 percent of whites. And 53 percent of these Hispanics access the Internet from their mobile phones. Hispanics also lead in their use of mobile data applications, including: taking pictures, sending and receiving text messages, accessing the Internet, sending and receiving e-mail, watching videos and using social networking sites.

I am proud our community is leading the way in wireless usage and am excited to see how this adoption can help bolster the community as a whole — from entrepreneurial opportunities and improving health care to educational development and greater public safety.

In fact, the Pew study reinforces many of the findings from a 2009 in-depth report released by the Hispanic Institute and Mobile Future examining mobile broadband’s impact on the Hispanic community.

The study, “Hispanic Broadband Access: Making the Most of the Mobile, Connected Future,” illustrates how advancements in wireless broadband are democratizing educational and entrepreneurial opportunities.

Hispanics traditionally have lagged behind other groups in adopting broadband connections at home. But that’s clearly not the case with wireless. While the Hispanic community is growing at a rapid pace, the wireless sector is evolving just as quickly. With opportunities and products emerging daily, consumers are able to select what’s best for them from a vast selection of plans, applications and services.

But this didn’t happen by accident. The wireless sector has grown tremendously in a short period of time because policy makers wisely set a light touch framework that put consumers in charge of the market and encouraged investment, innovation and growth. This led to increased research and development for cutting-edge wireless services and vibrant wireless networks connecting countless communities like ours that otherwise might have been left behind.

This year, the Federal Communications Commission released an ambitious National Broadband Plan to help ensure that no one ends up on the wrong side of the digital divide. The FCC set a terrific goal, but in order to meet its objectives, regulators must avoid imposing any rules that could deter the growth and innovation we see in wireless, including trying to regulate the Internet through so-called Net neutrality rules or attempting to micro-manage the highly competitive wireless sector.

By maintaining the current light-touch regulatory approach, wireless technology investors and innovators will continue to be spurred by robust market opportunities and healthy competition.

The result? A consumer-driven industry that is narrowing the gap by offering new cutting-edge products and services to millions of mobile subscribers.

Today’s wireless sector is connecting American consumers in ways we never dreamed possible. But putting rules in place that could stifle this vibrant sector would be counterproductive, and in today’s challenging economy, this is a gamble that neither Main Street nor Wall Street can afford to lose.

The article was orginially published in The Statesman.