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Wirelessly Connecting the Hispanic Community

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As thousands of Hispanic American leaders from communities across the nation gathered this week in Las Vegas for the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza, The Hispanic Institute and Mobile Future released a new report showing the 50.5 million Hispanics living in the U.S. are increasingly turning primarily to mobile broadband rather than wired connections as their main on-ramp to Internet.

The report, "Hispanic Broadband Access: Making the Most of the Mobile, Connected Future," shows Hispanics are among the most active users of mobile broadband among all demographic groups in the U.S. They also tend to be more geographically mobile than the overall U.S. population and rely more heavily on wireless services generally. Today, 90 percent of Hispanics ages 18-29 own cell phones; 70 percent have laptops, more than 51 percent have smartphones, and almost 20 percent have tablets.

These astonishing technology adoption rates are driving equally rapid uptake in the use of mobile broadband for promoting education, health care, access to financial service and civic engagement.

For instance, not only do students have access to new wireless educational resources and tools, Hispanic parents are better able to communicate with teachers and administrators at a time and place that adapts best to their mobile lives.

Wireless technologies also are changing the face of health care and finance for Hispanics. More likely to suffer from the national epidemics of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, Hispanics are using mobile devices to receive text reminders to check blood sugar levels, take medications, check in with their health care givers, and exercise daily. And, despite a track record of entrepreneurship and small business ownership, many Hispanics continue to have limited relationships with established banking institutions. Mobile technologies, however, have led to an increased comfort level transacting business online, from mobile banking to shopping.

Through mobile broadband, Hispanics are accessing efficient paths to health care services and the American business and financial mainstream.

Mobile technologies are also offering the Hispanic community a bullhorn for civic engagement. Hispanic voters are an increasingly powerful part of the U.S. electorate and political candidates are targeting those voters online. With 40 percent of Hispanics using wireless devices to access the Internet, mobile broadband is a vital platform for Hispanics to participate in policy debates and voter engagement -- on issues as diverse as immigration reform, healthcare policy, and the economy.

With exploding demand for mobile broadband in virtually every aspect of our lives, it's critical for U.S. policymakers to ensure our sustainable mobile future.

Today, there are more wireless subscriptions than people in the U.S. and the expanding use of mobile technology is taxing mobile networks, and the spectrum that fuels them, at unprecedented rates. The FCC anticipates that mobile spectrum demand could outstrip supply as early as next year. Additional spectrum must be made available quickly for commercial mobile use to meet exploding consumer demand.

Without more assertive government leadership, consumers could face longer download times and potentially higher costs. Worse, our national innovation economy and global competitiveness also could slow down. These outcomes are bad for all Americans -- but will hit Hispanics and other minority communities who rely most heavily on wireless connectivity especially hard.

Going forward, our nation's communications policies need to reflect and encourage the increasing demand for mobile broadband access. The government must also adopt more coherent and consumer-friendly tax policies to help ensure low-income wireless users can continue to afford mobile broadband services.

The bottom line is clear -- not just for the mobile innovation community, and the tens of millions of Americans they serve. But also for our government, whose vision, commitment, and leadership are needed more than ever to ensure that not only Hispanics -- but all Americans -- can access the promise and potential of mobile broadband to enhance our lives, our families, and our communities.

Jonathan Spalter, chairman of Mobile Future, has been founding CEO of leading technology, media, and research companies, including Public Insight, Snocap, and Atmedica Worldwide. He served in the Clinton Administration as a Director on the National Security Council.

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