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Minorities should seek a bigger slice of new media pie

The digital divide argument, that there is a disparity between non-whites and whites when it comes to broadband access, is losing its mojo for me. While broadband access for minority households via hard line may fall behind that of white households, since the mid 2000s, access via mobile wireless devices by minorities has been on par or exceeded that of whites. Stroll into the Starbucks near I-285 and Cascade Road and see every Black American patron connecting their lap tops to WiFi while checking messages on their smart phones. Even our kids have at least two wireless devices and we parents brace ourselves annually for our teenager’s request for the latest phone even when the one they currently own is still pristine.

Plenty of politicians and civil rights groups have been pushing for greater access to high speed broadband, making the argument that more broadband facilities should be deployed in communities of color especially since Black Americans and Latinos have been spearheading the “cut the cord” movement and going 100% wireless over the past 15 years or so. Minority leadership is demonstrating, however, that it has not been paying attention to changes in business models that would provide entrepreneurs in communities of color exposure to more lucrative opportunities versus following the same consumption of end-use product model that has been plaguing communities of color for decades.

Broadband access providers such as AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon are leveraging their customer data in order to attract advertising dollars. Verizon’s recent disclosure that it lost 307,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2017 in part due to competition from Sprint and T-Mobile has some analysts on Wall Street wondering if Verizon is up for merger. Bloomberg has reported that the wireless company has considered Comcast, Walt Disney, or CBS for corporate marriage.  Ironically the aforementioned companies are content providers who could probably do well leveraging Verizon’s wireless infrastructure to get content out including use of the company’s spectrum.

While Black Americans and Latinos are, unfortunately, known primarily for providing entertainment content, both communities should consider exploring creating and investing in content storage and content delivery systems. Constructing these facilities in neighborhoods with large numbers of Blacks or Latinos means access to short term and long term employment. High tech labor will be needed to design, construct, and operate server farms and other facilities that result from the decision to do more than buy another cell phone or activate some unlit fiber from the old MCI days.

This is an opportunity for a young Black or Latino entrepreneur or engineer to break from the herd mentality and not wait for permission from the Jesse Jackson posse on whether or not it should be done. One would think that the old heads from the civil rights movement would have the capital or access to capital that would assist outside-the-box minority entrepreneurs in getting capital, but since these leaders have not demonstrated that they even understand the emerging business models in communications, this may be a closed avenue.

In the end, the minority entrepreneur should be prepared to abandon the collective mindset that has communities of color thinking only about the next smartphone and form new, smaller, leaner, profit seeking collectives that generate ideas of value and use these ideas to create their own data and media companies.

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Will minorities benefit if the FCC lets the market work?

The Minority Media and Telecommunications Council’s Latoya Livingston wrote an insightful blog post on how increasing available spectrum can help entry into the digital economy. Check out her post here.

Ms. Livingston’s article raises two important points. One, why is the FCC afraid of allowing a market strategy such as consolidation do the work that it is not equipped to do? Second, why does the FCC not recognize that growth in the wireless sector does not necessarily mean having a certain number of carriers in the sector?

If you want wireless services produced and distributed at lower costs, you need to allow for scale whenever possible. As wireless services improve with the additional spectrum, entrepreneurs will bring innovative products that enhance the use of wireless networks.

It’s okay to let the market stumble and find itself. We can’t afford to have the FCC trying to hold the industry’s hand every step of the way.

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Civil rights groups, minorities aren’t looking for broadband handouts

Posted September 26th, 2011 in Broadband, NAACP and tagged , , , , by Alton Drew

Ernest Johnson of the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP laid out a simple and straightforward argument about how important it is to deploy broadband facilities to the underserved minority communities of Louisiana. What struck me as disturbing were the number of bigotry-laced comments included at the end of Mr. Johnson’s article, which you can find here at this link.

Could one of the barriers to broadband adoption be the perception that minorities want broadband handouts? That minority consumers want broadband for free? I can put that one question to rest with one word.

No.

Let’s keep it real. We are not naïve that there are citizens out there that live in the dark ages. I am not afraid of the comments. Quite frankly I’d rather they be aired so I know exactly where the cockroaches are lurking.

What would really be scary is if policy makers allowed this type of bias to enter into their broadband policy decisions.

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The over indexing of wireless consumption in minority communities

Posted August 22nd, 2011 in Broadband, wireless communications and tagged , , by Alton Drew

Reel Urban News did a great interview with Federal Communications Commission member Mignon Clyburn. You can see the interview via this link, http://www.reelurbannews.com/?p=477.

Ms. Clyburn raises a good point about minority over consumption of entertainment via wireless devices versus actual ownership of content. She even coins the term, “over indexing” for describing this consumption versus production balance.

Ms. Clyburn also points out the opportunities minority content providers may have for partnering with broadcasters in order to get content on the air.

Entrepreneurial and investment opportunities abound? I think so.

Tech as a viable future investment

Posted August 1st, 2011 in AT&T, economy, employment, entrepreneurship and tagged , , by Alton Drew

Ten billion dollars and 500,000 jobs. These are some of the eye-catching statistics from Latoya Livingston’s recent article about the promotion of entrepreneurship opportunities for people of color.

Ms. Livingston’s article places focus on a point too often overlooked during this debate over AT&T’s proposed merger with T-Mobile: the investment opportunities. While tech does rise and fall with consumer sentiment, in the immediate and long term, the market is showing continued demand for new and advanced products not only here in the U.S., but abroad.

There is an unmet global need that minority entrepreneurs can still take advantage of.