By Kristian Ramos (Huffpost Latino Voices)
Broadband access is a buzz word that many people probably find utterly and completely boring. They shouldn’t and here is why: Technology is changing the world at a rate which is startling. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the way we consume media. Smart phones, computers, and tablets have brought about an unprecedented amount of freedom to watch, listen or read anything, anywhere at any time. It has also brought an incredible investment in content , yet conversely not an equal investment in providing more broadband access, the main way to receive media. Nowhere is this inequality more apparent then with the Hispanic community.
The Pew Hispanic Center released a report recently that noted:
Latinos are less likely than whites to access the internet, have a home broadband connection or own a cell phone. Latinos also lag behind blacks in home broadband access but have similar rates of internet and cell phone use.
From the same report, only 44% of Hispanic’s in this country have access to the internet. By contrast Whites and Blacks have 65% and 52% access. However Hispanics utilize the internet at nearly the same rate as Blacks and not much less then White people.
Not only do they use broadband at close to the same rates as those who have more access, but they overwhelmingly participate in interactive internet content:
the Hispanic demographic is interested in connecting online – visiting social networks (55%), listening to radio (40%) and visiting television/programming sites (17%). Rounding out the top five places Hispanic broadband users go on the web are shopping sites (14%) and to watch TV online (8%).”
According to Los Angeles Times major corporations are starting to take notice. This last month Comcast rolled out a plan which offers an Internet plan at $9.95 per month for qualifying low-income families. The Internet Essentials plan provides Internet access and also offers other qualifying customers a netbook computer for $149.99. To qualify, families must live in an area covered by Comcast and have at least one child who receives free school lunches through the National School Lunch Program.
Though this plan is aimed at school children who will be able to utilize the internet to help with their school work, there is a potential to greatly expand the reach of broadband into communities that have not always been able to receive it. In an era in which Hispanics are the fastest growing demographic group in America, creating ways to give them to get equal access to the internet is probably better for the country as a whole.
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