Wireless Policy Must Encourage Business Growth

Each year when the country celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month, as we are now, it brings a great deal of pride to a demographic that is significantly contributing to the American success story. Hispanic Americans are tirelessly working to support the ideals of perseverance, hard work, and ingenuity. Perhaps the best embodiment of this has been the growth and impact of America’s Hispanic entrepreneurs.

Recently in Salt Lake City, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) held its National Convention – the largest gathering of Hispanic business leaders in the country. Conversations with the business owners gathered in Utah illustrated the importance of issues that are often overlooked but play a critical role in the day-to-day operations of countless small and minority-owned businesses. One such issue is how Hispanic business owners, as well as the wider Hispanic community, are using wireless services.

The recent release of the 2014 National Online Survey of Hispanic consumers is timely in this regard, and combined with previously released studies, it conveys a clear message: Hispanics in the U.S. are overwhelmingly satisfied with their wireless phone services, consider them a daily essential, and use these services dramatically more than other ethnicities.

When it comes to the policy aspects of wireless use, it is not difficult to understand how Hispanics – and all Americans – are wary of government efforts that create barriers to additional mobile innovation or wider adoption. The survey found that nearly two-thirds of Hispanics believe new wireless service regulations would make their existing service worse and more expensive through additional taxes and fees.

This is especially pertinent to the current so-called net neutrality debate. The FCC is currently considering revising the rules it instituted in 2010 and more intrusively regulating mobile services. We caution any change in approach.  Since those regulations were put into place, Hispanics use of mobile has tremendously increased, as according to the Pew Research Center we lead all ethnicities in smartphone adoption, and the number of Hispanics primarily using mobile devices to access the Internet is more than double that of whites (60% to 27%).

Going forward, legislative and regulatory efforts must recognize the incredible value Hispanics place on mobile technology to run and grow their businesses and to connect with family and friends.  The FCC would be wise not to disrupt the successful market it helped create in 2010, and resist making regulatory changes that would impede the Hispanic community’s more expansive use of mobile services.  For the 9 out of 10 Hispanics that rely on smartphones today, mobile technology and growth are too important to change the rules now.

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, specifically by passing the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act. Although increased tax revenue may be an attractive remedy to deficits faced within many states and localities throughout the nation, it is critically important to keep in mind how emerging segments of the American economy, such as Hispanic entrepreneurs, are using wireless services to sustain and grow their businesses.

Wireless services are increasingly important for small businesses and minority communities in America, as smart phones and mobile technologies make huge strides year after year. That trend will continue if regulators in our nation’s capital should resist the temptation to ‘fix’ what is not broken, and federal, state, and municipal lawmakers keep pace by ensuring wireless tax freedom. In order for economic growth to continue and for the Hispanic contribution to American prosperity to become even more substantial, smart public policy ideas must be put into effect.

Javier Palomarez is the President & CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest Hispanic business association.

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