THE BLOG
02/18/2014 12:25 pm ET Updated Apr 20, 2014

Our Country Has Changed; Why Hasn't The '96 Telecom Act

This month marks the eighteenth anniversary of the 1996 Telecom Act. This landmark piece of legislation paved the way for a new era of competition, innovation, and consumer choice - and it all began at a time when information services, as we know them today, barely existed at all.

It also began in a much less ethnically diverse America. How do we ensure more ethnically diverse populations are able to engage in these broadband technologies? Re-looking at the 1996 Telecom Act through the prism of our country as it exists today would be a great place to start.

There is no doubt that Broadband service and broadband-enabled technologies have transformed our lives by offering new possibilities and capabilities. We go online to find news and information, to engage with our communities and our leaders, and to file taxes or register our vehicles.

We use social media sites to connect with those who matter to us. We go online to work, to get health information, to access all kinds of services, and to attend classes. And we can do all of these things while on the go, thanks to mobile broadband networks and our wireless devices.

And today, broadband access has become an essential resource for education and health care. President Obama is expanding access to high-speed Internet access in our nation's schools and libraries, as well as calling for more technology in our classrooms.

Innovations in health care technologies have given birth to mHealth and telemedicine, making it possible for more people to access convenient, quality care and services, and helping care providers work with patients to achieve better health outcomes with fewer office visits.

Our new younger and ethnically diverse populations are already interacting with broadband in a huge way. For example according to Nielson, Hispanic consumers adopt smartphones at a higher rate than any other demographic group and watch more hours of videos online and on their mobile phones than the average American. But we need them and other segments of our new America to engage more in the opportunities that broadband technologies provide.

In order to ensure that these new broadband apps and services continue to benefit consumers, Hispanics or otherwise, one aspect must be addressed - what is the proper regulatory framework that should be in place to provide the best incentives for creators to innovate and for carriers to build out nationwide all broadband networks? How do we reach more of our diverse nation?

The 1996 Act could not contemplate today's IP-enabled broadband world, and it can't possibly address the speedy pace of advancements in the tech sector, any more than the cutting-edge gadgets and technologies of 1996 could ever meet our needs today.

To ensure that more of these new ethnically diverse populations are using broadband to get online we need modern, smart regulations in place that can usher in a new era of innovation and consumer choices while simultaneously encouraging investment into advanced technologies and infrastructure.

Tremendous technological advances have changed and improved our lives in ways no one could have imagined back in 1996. Our country is different demographically, and by all indications these new populations are eager to engage in broadband technologies.

These Consumers have chosen to move forward, adopting technologies that enrich their lives. Instead of looking back, we're looking to a future where advanced and expanded broadband networks can deliver even more benefits to us all. And that can happen, as long as we replace those obsolete rules with new ones that support, not stifle, continued broadband innovation.