By Javier Palomarez
Last year’s presidential election solidified the power and the strength of the Hispanic electorate. Never before has a presidential race been so impacted by the nation’s Hispanic electorate, and never again will an American president be voted into office without taking into account the Hispanic vote.
Although Hispanics have come far in terms of political clout, our community continues to fight for our voice to be included in the national debate, secure our place at the table, and be part of the American narrative. Education is not only the key to success, but also pivotal to be part of the American business success story itself. But to increase access to education, it is important that we are all on an even playing field in terms of access to technology and the opportunities offered by having affordable internet service.
In terms of Hispanic businesses, the challenges are not unlike the rest of American small businesses. The key concerns still revolve around expanding access capital to grow, hire workers, create jobs and contribute to America’s economic prosperity. The Internet greatly impacts the growth of a business. Access to technology opens doors to solutions at the most granular level – from being able to promote a business online, to participating in government and corporate procurement opportunities – especially since the vast majority of contracting is conducted on the Internet.
If you take a good look at our education system, success is mainly based on having reliable access to the Internet. The vast majority of students — anywhere between grade school to college – need to have access to the Internet in order to do homework, apply for college or research financial aid opportunities. For society as a whole, whether you are applying for a home loan or searching for a new job, you are most likely doing so online.
Certain segments of the Hispanic community face greater challenges because of their limited access to affordable Internet. Although we are constantly hearing that Hispanics over-index in terms of Internet usage, for many low-income Hispanics, there is still a deep digital divide.
In fact, a recent study by Pew’s Internet & American Life projects that only 53 percent of Hispanics have adopted broadband at home, compared to 74 percent of Caucasian Americans. There is no excuse for anyone living in the United States, one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world, to not have access to the Internet.
Access to the Internet is a critical necessity for all Americans, but certainly for Hispanics. That is where programs like Internet Essentials have become a game changer for the community. Internet Essentials, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive broadband adoption program, provides home broadband Internet access for just $9.95 a month, the option to purchase a computer for less than $150 and free digital literacy training for low-income families, is a visionary and necessary program. This Comcast-lead program is bringing access into the homes of those who have become the most disconnected from society.
In just about two years, Internet Essentials has enrolled 1 million low-income Americans, or 250,000 households. Internet Essentials not only brings the Internet to a child’s fingertips, but also impacts the entire household, opening a world of education, information, news and job markets. In that sense, the Internet affords us an opportunity to be better educated and informed, therefore increasing the chance to compete on a level playing field.
The reality is that the Internet is a central part of education and business. It is the great equalizer and provides students an opportunity to have the same access to information than other students have, and gives even the smallest business the opportunity to market and advertise themselves in an efficient manner alongside major corporations.
Comcast’s Internet Essentials program illustrates strategic action and necessary leadership that – in turn – empowers our nation’s working families.
Palomarez is the president and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.