Minorities Don't Lag in Net Usage, Says USIIA

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Appearing to back up assertions by Illinois Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush, the U.S. Internet Industry Association (USIIA) is circulating a White Paper by its president suggesting the minority community is not lagging the rest of the nation in Internet usage.

The "digital divide" theory has informed much of the debate over legislation to revise telecommunications policy to speed the universal roll-out to high-speed Internet service, with some legislators pushing for so-called anti-redlining provisions and build-out requirements.

USIIA counters that "English-speaking minority groups [are] leading the nation in the adoption of modern communications technology."

At a House Telecommunications Subcommittee hearing on a telecommunications reform bill earlier this month, Rush, who co-sponsored the bill, suggested that his constitutents, many of them African-American, didn't need to be taken care of through build-out provisions but instead needed the lower prices for cable service that the bill would produce by creating national video franchises and spurring competition to cable from telcos and others.

Rush took issue with what he said was the "sterotyping" of low-value customers as lower income and minority, saying his constituents were instead high-value. "My constituents spend more money, time and scarce resources on cable and wireless than any other demo."

Arguably the key USIIA assertion is that "ethnic minorities are among the heaviest subscribers to all IP services (especially bundled services), making them a key target group for service providers."

Ranking House Commerce Democrats Ed Markey of Massachussetts and John Dingell of Michigan oppose the bill in part because they say that telcos and cable will bypass minority and lower-income areas for more profitable ones unless the government steps in to mandate build-outs.

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