As the U.S. develops a national broadband strategy, much is at stake for American consumers, our country’s economy, as well as future innovation and its many social benefits. Complex issues from infrastructure deployment to digital literacy to consumer-friendly tax reform all play into U.S. efforts to close the digital divide and usher in a new era of innovation and opportunity. Equally important to ensuring these benefits are shared throughout our society is a deeper understanding of the unique needs, challenges and connected behavior of diverse Americans.
This paper explores the broadband behavior, challenges and opportunities of the nation’s 48 million Hispanics. A better understanding of this community and its connectivity—increasingly defined by a strong preference for mobile broadband access—can help shape a successful national broadband strategy that spurs substantial new opportunities at the intersection of broadband, mobility and the Hispanic community.
• While Hispanics trail other U.S. populations in overall Internet access, they are among the most avid users of mobile broadband. In fact, Hispanics and African Americans lead mobile broadband use (53% and 58% respectively), with both communities far ahead of Whites (33%).
• Hispanics are more mobile than the general U.S. population and, thus, rely more on cell phones. In fact, compared to Americans generally, Hispanics account for more minutes used and for a higher percentage of cell-phone ownership despite their relatively low incomes.
• Given that roughly 40% of U.S. Hispanics are born abroad, in countries where wireless service often is more common than landline phones, the American Hispanic community is more open to mobile broadband than many other population groups. This familiarity makes the leap to smartphones and other connected mobile devices a more intuitive step for many than turning to wired, home broadband adoption and computer usage.
• In 2008, Hispanics outpaced the general population in accessing and downloading digital media (music, video, audio, movies, television programs, video games and podcasts), 42% to 35%
Broadband access is closely aligned with economic opportunities and a wide array of social benefits— from health care to public safety to education to government services. Thus, it is critical that Hispanics have a seat at the table in the development of a national broadband strategy. Broadband service—and particularly wireless broadband—affords Hispanics greater access to the diversity of benefits that modern connectivity brings into our lives. A few examples:
• Education: Parents are able to keep in close contact with their children’s teachers regarding assignments, behavior and academic progress while on the go thanks to texting, email and mobile connectivity.
• Health Care: Hispanics are more likely than other population groups to suffer from diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease. Personalized and immediate care, medication reminders and othertimely interventions on their mobile devices can enhance their health while also reducing the costs of their medical care.
• Economy: Expanded mobile banking options could greatly boost Hispanic economic opportunities, making core banking services more accessible to Hispanics, who are among the most entrepreneurial and mobile Americans.
Hispanic consumers are helping to lead the way for wireless broadband use. As we look to strategies to boost both infrastructure deployment and investment as well as consumer broadband adoption, we must not forget the pivotal role that wireless broadband infrastructure, innovation, services and applications play for millions of Americans.
New policies need to reflect and encourage increasing demand for mobile broadband access. More coherent and consumer-friendly tax policies are needed to help ensure that low-income Hispanics can continue to afford wireless broadband services. Lifeline/Link-up programs should continue to offer discounts to qualified low-income wireless customers. Policies should support the health and growth of the industry, so it can continue to create high-wage, high-tech jobs for a growing Hispanic population.
Expanding broadband connectivity is essential to current efforts to enhance our nation’s economy and quality of life through broadband and wireless-fueled innovation. With rising connectivity, Hispanics will be able to enhance their many contributions to our nation’s economic renewal and global competitiveness. Pending and future policies and investments must keep the unique needs of this community in perspective, and Hispanics must play a major role in the debate about their mobile and connected future.