Media Matters for America misses the minority consumer welfare argument

A blog post on Media Matters for America’s website spent so much time emphasizing an alleged and tenuous conflict of interest involving Henry Rivera and AT&T that it completely missed the very significant issue of what a failure to approve AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile USA would mean to minority access to the Internet.

Pew Research found that while 59% of adult Americans go online via wireless devices, blacks and Latinos are more likely to own a cell phone (87%) versus whites (80%). In addition, 64% of African Americans and 63% of Latinos access the Internet via wireless devices.

This data supports Mr. Rivera’s view that AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile should be approved. Since T-Mobile is not in a position to expand its 4G network, blacks and Latinos would not enjoy the benefits of expanded 4g coverage, at least in the short run.

Esperanza Spaulding, cell phones, and airplanes

Two technological achievements amaze me still to this very day: airplanes and cell phones. I’ve often said I’d rather be in the cockpit of a Cessna flying from Frederick to Baltimore rather than driving five minutes to the grocery store. It’s a lot safer and saner in the air.

The telephone also amazes me. I still look at it as two cans connected by a string, but with a bunch of electronics that help to boost the signal. Cell phones are even more amazing, but in the end are merely suped up radios. When you look at the history of cell phones and airplanes, their early uses share a common thread: productivity.

Both technologies were developed and promoted to make commerce easier. While one technology carried mail and business passengers, the other carried voice messages. Today the cell phone can do much more than carry voice messages, but as an article by the Associated Press’ Jesse Washington points out, minorities are not doing much with today’s 4G technology except for entertaining ourselves.

Mr. Washington described how African Americans and Latinos appear not to be using mobile technology for productive purposes, placing a greater emphasis on video games and social networks. It’s too bad, especially given the Obama administration’s push to build out our digital infrastructure. It’s part of his winning the future vision.

But if we are to out-compete, out-build, and out-innovate in order to get our economy moving again, I think that all portions of the population will have to focus on the substance of commerce and creation. So far I haven’t come across much of any policies designed to inspire a productive mindset versus the uber-focus on consumption.

Entertainment is good. It’s fun. Just ask Justin Bieber. But given the state of joblessness, and the restructuring of the workplace and its needs, I’d prefer some of Esperanza Spaulding’s depth right about now.