During National Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the contributions of the Latino community in the United States. The Hispanic community is a dynamic and entrepreneurial force driving growth and creating jobs, particularly through small businesses. This success has been supported in no small part by access to mobile Internet services.
However, potential government regulation of the wireless industry may slow down Internet access and increase costs, which would threaten the continued development of this business story.
The United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) represents the interests of 3.2 million Hispanic-owned businesses across the country that together contribute more than $468 billion to the U.S. economy each year. At our recent gathering of Hispanic business leaders, we discussed important issues that play a critical role in the day-to-day operations of small and minority-owned businesses.
One such issue is how Hispanic business owners, as well as the wider Hispanic community, are using and benefiting from wireless services. The recent release of the 2014 MyWireless.org National Online Survey of Hispanic consumers conveys a clear message: Hispanics highly value wireless phone services and use mobile Internet more than any other ethnic group. According to the Pew Research Center, our community leads all ethnic groups in smart-phone adoption, and the number of Hispanics primarily using mobile devices to access the Internet is more than double that of whites — 60 percent to 27 percent).
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But these positive trends are now being threatened by needless intervention. The FCC is considering revising the so-called net-neutrality rules guiding Internet regulation, which holds significant implications for wireless services. The proposed new rules would greatly increase the regulatory burden on wireless services. These would also be a sharp departure from the approach adopted by the FCC in 2010 ,which resulted in tremendous growth, innovation and competition in the wireless market.
As evidenced by the surge in adoption and use of mobile Internet access, Hispanics — and all Americans — have enjoyed the benefits of this approach. Given the success of the FCC’s current approach, nearly two-thirds of Hispanics surveyed believe new, heavier wireless service regulations would make their current wireless service less useful and more expensive.
Going forward, legislative and regulatory efforts must recognize the incredible value Hispanics place on mobile technology and the role it has played in advancing our personal and business aspirations. The FCC would be wise not to disrupt the successful wireless market it helped create in 2010, and resist making regulatory changes that would impede the Hispanic community’s increasing reliance on mobile services.
Likewise, we encourage Congress to take action to extend tax relief to the technology and telecommunications sector and to the millions of consumers benefiting from mobile service. By passing the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act, Congress can permanently extend the ban on local and state taxation of Internet access services, including mobile Internet access.
Although increased tax revenue may be an attractive remedy to deficits that many states and localities face across the nation, it is important to ask: At what cost? Vital emerging segments of the American economy, such as Hispanic entrepreneurs, are using wireless services to establish, sustain and grow their businesses. This Act will help keep mobile services affordable and accessible for our community, especially small businesses that depend on mobile service.
As mobile technologies make strides year after year, wireless services will continue to be important tools for Hispanic small businesses and communities. Regulators in the nation’s capital should resist the temptation to “fix” what is not broken. Federal, state, and municipal lawmakers should guarantee a reasonable tax structure that keeps mobile Internet access affordable.
These simple, sensible approaches will maintain an environment that allows for the continued contributions of Hispanics in our country’s economic growth.
Javier Palomarez is the President & CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest Hispanic business association.