THE BLOG
05/30/2013 05:48 pm ET Updated Jul 30, 2013

Technology Is Not a Bridge to Nowhere

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A recent article in the Wall Street Journal noted a burgeoning partnership between content creators and wireless providers. The Wall Street Journal reported that ESPN and a major wireless carrier have been in discussions with one another about the sports channel subsidizing a portion of a consumer's data usage.

The arrangement would have ESPN paying a carrier to ensure that a customer's viewing of ESPN on his or her mobile device would not be counted towards a monthly data allowance or tier. Bottom line, this is a great deal for the consumer.

While I was in Congress, the ubiquitous use of technology was just emerging and it was hard to predict how the market would innovate and grow. Technology has helped change how we interact with one another and how we do things, bottom line: we now live in a broadband enabled environment. The ability for consumers to access and enjoy popular content and not worry about incurring significant data overage charges is an encouraging move in the direction of a consumer oriented market. Whether you are a sports fan or not, this announcement signals the market is adapting to changing consumer needs, and it's not hard to imagine this model spreading fast into other types of content in important areas like education and health care.

When we think about the country and its demographic pockets, statistics show that minority communities are among some of the greatest consumers of mobile data. Amongst the African American community, 73 percent access the Internet from a mobile device.

Internet access continues to be an empowerment tool for minority communities both urban and rural. Access to and adoption of broadband enabled and wireless technologies continues to have enormous potential as an equalizer for these communities. Whether it is communication with family members and friends, educational and job training opportunities, entertainment, or m-health, minority groups stand to gain especially with mobile.

The ability to fully realize this potential hinges on the availability of the invisible infrastructure that enables wireless networks -- spectrum. While an arbitrary word for most consumers, the reality is there is a fixed amount of spectrum that provides our ability to surf the web, download apps, and engage our loved ones via Face Time.

Data from Cisco shows that in 2012 alone, the average smartphone usage grew 81 percent. As communities continue to rely more and more on mobile devices, it's clear that the spectrum that is currently available and being used by the wireless industry is not going to be enough to keep up with future demand.

In an effort to meet this demand, companies in the wireless business are buying and selling spectrum and the Federal Communication Commission is designing a path for companies to purchase broadcast TV spectrum. These efforts have been -- and will continue to be -- critical to closing the digital divide.

One thing is clear, freeing up more spectrum for commercial wireless use will foster innovation -- leading to new or improved apps and services that have and will continue to empower minority and rural communities. Arming innovators with additional spectrum and fostering business arrangements that deliver popular content at no additional cost to consumers is something we need to encourage. As minority communities continue to rely on wireless technology to tackle some of today's most pressing issues, policy makers in Washington should focus on creating an environment that keeps the wireless market place working and will empower communities that have traditionally been underserved.