WASHINGTON -- Market barriers to minority and small business owners must be removed so that they can compete in the global marketplace says Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski.
Speaking at the Minority Media & Telecom Council’s Access to Capital and Telecommunications Conference, Genachowski assured his audience that the FCC is focused on equal employment opportunity and private sector investment, which fosters a good environment for emerging businesses.
He said that since broadband is undoubtedly the main infrastructure of the 21st century; every entrepreneur should have access to and be comfortable with the technology.
The cost of digital exclusion affects minorities in a world where classifieds are moving online and job applications must be completed and submitted through the internet, to the point where “if you don’t have broadband, you can’t get a job,” said Genachowski. He cited low penetration rates among African-Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, and said the digital divide seriously troubles him.
These problems were the main drivers in creating the National Broadband Plan to ensure that no Americans were left behind in the digital age. Plans for infrastructure deployment will drive private investment in broadband. It also calls for government resources and the removal of market barriers to make these private investments viable and successful.
Another barrier to entrepreneurs is the availability of spectrum, especially for mobile applications. Genachowski said “Without more spectrum, the first choice of internet access for millions of minority Americans will deliver second-rate service.” This is a particular problem for minorities, many of whom access the internet primarily through mobile devices.
In addition to driving broadband deployment, he said the National Broadband Plan calls for increases in broadband adoption as well. The main barriers to adoption are cost and digital literacy. He said in addition to the Lifeline, Linkup, and Digital Literacy Corps programs, he also wants to help small businesses improve their digital skills.
The FCC is currently working with the Small Business Administration to create public/private partnerships that will provide broadband education for small and diverse businesses.
The FCC is revitalizing its Office of Communications Business Opportunities by bringing in a new office head and focusing on making the best capitalization strategies available online for emerging businesses. They are also working on networking systems that could connect small businesses with larger companies in the communications field.
Genachowski said keeping an open internet is essential, and “entrepreneurs shouldn’t have to ask permission to innovate online.” The ability to “connect, create, and communicate” online should be available to everyone, he said.