Mobile Broadband and Asian-Pacific American Empowerment:

A Smart Way Forward

By OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates

Imagine a mobile internet that’s a stark improvement over today’s wireless networks. This new service reacts 10 times quicker to our commands and network speeds are 20 times faster than today.

The benefits unleashed by this service include self-driving cars; dramatic improvements in education and healthcare; and cooler entertainment, including a new generation of virtual reality video games. In all, as a recent CNN report put it, this new technology “will create a ripple of developments that will change daily life.”

This is the approaching reality of “5G wireless,” a term the mobile industry uses for the next generation of wireless technology. While 5G’s promise is tremendous, we must strengthen our current wireless and wireline networks to prepare for its arrival.

Our wireless infrastructure requires billions of dollars in new investment in order to handle the growing demand for instant, high-quality data. This investment includes adding tens of thousands of additional wireless transmitters nationwide. In contrast to the huge towers that powered previous wireless service, these new “small cell” transmitters are remarkably inconspicuous.

Our rapidly growing use of mobile service also requires access to more commercial spectrum for consumer use.  Additional spectrum will ensure that wireless networks, including Wi-Fi, are able to handle ever-increasing consumer demand without compromising bandwidth and speed.  Importantly, next-generation wireless networks will depend not only on additional spectrum, but the success of wired broadband networks as well.  

As a result, in addition to making more spectrum available, it will be important to remove barriers such as duplicative taxes and fees – often times applied to wired broadband deployment efforts by state and local governments – in order to ensure continued investment in the build-out of wired broadband that are indispensable to realizing 5G wireless services.

An industry survey last year found that Americans used nearly 16 trillion megabytes of mobile data in 2017. That’s nearly four times the 2014 level and about 40 times the 2010 volume. If everyone is to have adequate opportunity to use tomorrow’s broadband services, more spectrum and continued broadband infrastructure build-out is critical.

These are important issues for OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates. For years, we have supported efforts to encourage better, more accessible broadband. We believe industry and policymakers must work together to expand broadband choice for low-income, immigrant, and elder communities.

To understand the importance of expanding mobile broadband access in our communities, look no further than our divergent economic and social needs. On one hand, Asian Americans are more likely to use mobile internet service and have higher income and education rates than any other racial or ethnic group.  

Yet, many in our communities struggle economically. A lack of adequate and affordable broadband service makes their lives even more difficult. A 2018 Pew Research report found that Asian Americans have become the most economically divided group in the country. The income gap experienced by Asian American’s is larger than any other major racial and ethnic population.

By expanding America’s broadband services, people on the lower end of this divide will gain new opportunities for better lives. They will have greater access to online education and workforce training. With a more reliable internet connection, they will have greater access to work opportunities that lay beyond the physical boundaries of their communities.

Our communities are remarkably diverse: 20 million Asian American’s trace their roots back to more than 20 countries. Out of this diversity comes great strength, resilience, and the opportunity to prosper within our great nation. But only if our entire community has access to the tools necessary to succeed. Next-generation, mobile broadband access is crucial to this empowerment.

 

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