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By Mari D. González
Many argue that Latinos are ahead of the curve when it comes to online interactions—gaming and social media consumption—but they might ignore the fact that 30 percent of Latino families, including school children, college students and working parents, do not have access to basic Internet services at home simply because they cannot afford it. They are deprived of fully participating in and contributing to a society that now depends on Internet as it once depended on home phone services.
Internet services are no longer an option as cable TV. Internet is not just about consuming entertainment. We are now required to complete employment and college applications online and research homework via the World Wide Web. Some wealthy school districts even require students to watch educational online courses to enrich the classroom teaching.
Do we want a society divided by the ability to access information and make use of an essential technology such as the Internet? Do we want low-income Latinos to be relegated to a segment that “over indexes” on consumption? Or, do we want them to be active participants, contributors, and creators online? Affordable Internet services should be the right for every family in the U.S.
Comcast has fallen short in signing up people in need for its $10-per month service “Internet Essentials”—a program started to ensure the NBC Universal merger in 2011. Now that Comcast has proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable, the Federal Communications Commission must be pressured to require Comcast to 1) Extend Internet Essentials to all low-income households, 2) Increase Internet Essentials subscribers until the program reaches 80% adoption—which is now at 14%, and 3) Create a strategic plan to close the Digital Divide by allocating funds for non-profits to assist in achieving subscriber goals.