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Jul 24

“Free Our Airwaves” by Jose Marquez, CEO @techLatino.

quaTechLatino strives to empower the Latino community. Because Latinos are among the highest consumers of mobile technology, we have devoted significant attention to next-generation wireless initiatives. The ultimate goal is fifth-generation (“5G”) connectivity. Much of our recent focus has been on infrastructure.  However, wireless connectivity cannot function without another core ingredient: spectrum.

 What is spectrum? According to the Federal Communications Commission, spectrum is the airwaves that our devices utilize to send and receive mobile communications. It’s a fact that wireless usage has skyrocketed year after year. This trend is projected to grow astronomically. Given that Latinos are the prime consumers of wireless, this means we need more spectrum to ensure our needs continue to be met. However, spectrum is a limited resource. You can’t “add” more airwaves to the air.

 The federal government manages spectrum usage and allocates it for non-governmental use through auctions. If we are using more wireless than ever before, then we need more spectrum. Thankfully, there is a bill being considered in Congress that would allocate more spectrum to the commercial sector to keep up with our growing needs.  The bipartisan AIRWAVES Act introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives authorizes a timeline to allow usage of additional mid-band and high-band spectrum, creating a pipeline to meet consumers’ demands over the coming decade.

 In line with the mobile preferences of the Latino community they serve, state and federal Latino lawmakers support next-generation wireless legislation. The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators supports the AIRWAVES Act. U.S. Representatives Filemón Vela (D-TX-34), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA-34), Vicente González (D-TX-15), Pete Aguilar (D-CA-31), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY-7), and Ben Luján (D-NM-30) are all co-sponsors of the bill. The first Latina U.S. Senator and first female U.S. Senator from Nevada Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) is also co-sponsoring the bill. Senator Cortez Masto in particular has been a champion of ensuring access to technology for her community. Coming full circle, the bipartisan STREAMLINE Act supports the infrastructure buildout that will utilize the spectrum freed for our use by the AIRWAVES Act. While this bill has been recently introduced, it is our hope that legislators will seize this opportunity to support our community by co-sponsoring that legislation as well.

 Though the spectrum pipeline created by the AIRWAVES Act will already help coverage and capacity needs, it is also  targeted specifically to serve unserved, underserved, and rural communities. The bill text reveals that 10% of funds paid from the spectrum auction will be dedicated for deployment in these communities. Our communities are often assumed to live in urban areas, but many Latinos make up a significant part of rural populations as well. The bill also commissions a study to explore additional possibilities for unlicensed spectrum, which powers uses such as Wi-Fi.

 It is our mission to empower Latino communities. These solutions have the potential to provide unserved and underserved areas with better access to telehealth, education, and overall broadband access. We depend on wireless networks more than other groups, and accordingly TechLatino supports the AIRWAVES Act in its promise to accelerate wireless connectivity for our future.

 

About TechLatino: The National Association of Latinos in Information Sciences and Technology (LISTA).

Through its network of 15 affiliated community-based councils, association and partnerships with non-profit organizations, we advocate on behalf of the millions of Latinos in 50 states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, South America and Spain. To achieve its mission, to educate, motivate and empower, we conduct workshops and seminars, national business series, research, policy analysis, and technology awareness programs in order to provide a Latino perspective in many key areas in technology — development of the 21st century workforce, coding, health information technology, STEAM education, employment/economic status, business development cell and broadband. In addition, it provides workshops and training to technology professionals and students in health it, big data and other technology opportunities for individuals, small businesses and families. Helping Close the digital divide and giving opportunity to all.

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