By Manuel Diaz
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) will host a number of events next week that celebrate Latino history, heritage and the American dream. The event will be both a significant and memorable experience as six of President Obama’s cabinet secretaries as well as his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama plan to attend. The program also promises to be both exciting and educational, as more than 3,000 Latino leaders from across the country, including more than 20 members of Congress, gather together to discuss major policy issues affecting the Latino community. As a former mayor and concerned member of the Latino community, I feel it is tremendously important that we consider how key policy issues affect Americans – ALL Americans, including the growing population of Hispanics – and am pleased that the CHCI events will provide a platform for this important dialogue.
The list of policy issues to be discussed next week is broad – spanning from education to health and health care reform to immigration reform – and includes one issue that I think is the stepping stone for the future and empowerment for Latino kids: technology. Technology – and broadband technology, in particular, is an empowering tool that holds the key to our economic equality. Unfortunately, the digital divide that exists today disproportionately affects the Latino community, placing both native-born Latinos and foreign-born Latinos at a serious disadvantage. A recent Pew report finds that Hispanics are less connected to the internet than non-Hispanics overall and there is a tremendous disparity between the internet usage adoption rates of U.S. born Latinos and foreign-born Latinos. I know that we can do better than this.
High speed Internet access is a transforming technology that provides countless benefits and unprecedented opportunity to its many users – allowing increased productivity and helping to develop tomorrow’s leaders. In our increasingly digital society the cost of living without this tool grows greater every day – making it critical that we ensure all Americans have affordable access.
Earlier this year the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) laid out a vision to achieving universal access with the National Broadband Plan. I believe that in doing this – while maintaining an open Internet – we will be on the right track to create jobs, revive our economy and provide valuable opportunity to Latinos and other underserved and un-served communities.
Moving forward policymakers should ensure that all stakeholders are working together to ensure that we are successful in reaching the goal of affordable access to high speed Internet.
As we celebrate our Hispanic Heritage this month and all year, it is important that we honor the progress that we have made – and continue to look for opportunities and pursue policies that will enable continued progress and success. I am confident that technology provides a solid path to both.