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Leroy Jones, Jr. is the creator of Talking Technology with Leroy Jones, Jr.

AFRICAN - AMERICANS AND THE INTERNET

A little more than a year ago, one of America's most respected research organizations found that African-Americans had signed up for high-speed Internet service at rates that almost tripled from the previous two years.  The report by the Pew Research Center was profiled in news articles all across the country about African-Americans and the Internet.


The Pew study found that Home high-speed Internet usage among African-Americans is now roughly equivalent to the rate for whites in 2006.  There has been great change, but there is still much work to be done.


In our community, there is a dedicated effort to make sure our folks are not left out of the technology universe.  Folks are now very aware of the importance of being wired to the internet.  They realize it is necessary both economically and socially.  For instance, the majority of black-owned businesses, according to our latest U.S. Census figures are ran out of the homes of these business owners.  Their success or their failures can easily be based on the availability of high-speed internet connection.  As we move into the future and more African-Americans sign on for high-speed connections, it will almost inevitably mean more business opportunities for these forward thinking entrepreneurs. 


On the educational front, it also mandatory that the young people in our community have access to and are afforded every opportunity to succeed in our fast moving and expanding technical world.  Their future success is linked to the viability and growth of not only their community, but our nation as a whole.


The high-speed connections have also opened up a world of opportunities for families such as telecommuting, enjoying sports and other streamed entertainment, distance education, and video chatting with friends across the country. 


So what caused the dramatic turn-around?  One answer is the growing competition among wireless, telephone and cable providers has forced prices down and spurred new deployment into historically under served areas.  Just look at the cost of DSL prices today. They are as low as $15 per month in many areas.  Back in 1999, the same service cost $60 per month or more.


For many African-American families, this cost savings is literally the difference between being a part of the 21st century - with all its economic potential - and being left on the sidelines. 


Another answer: The concern that African American community not be left behind on issues of technology.  There is a very real commitment from every section of the community to do even more.  There is a need, and folks are working hard to make sure those needs are being met.  Our young people deserve nothing less.


So much is going in the right direction.  The inevitable question has to be:  How can we keep this progress going?  First, the competition that brought down prices and spurred deployment must continue.  Nothing should be allowed to interfere with this, especially if it causes prices to rise. 


Second, Congress should strongly oppose efforts by some online companies to pass Net neutrality regulation.  Net neutrality is a legal loophole that will allow huge corporations such as Google and Amazon to avoid paying the full cost of their Internet access.  But if that happens, then the prices rise for everyone else.  This will directly place African-Americans' hard won online success at risk.


Everyone would agree that the Internet should always be free and open, and everyone who uses it should be able to surf the net to get anything they want. 


For the African-American community, the issues are real and straight forward.  The entire community is fully committed to pushing forward with the progress that has been made.  The internet has made education and economic possibilities limitless, and the long term benefits to both the African American community and our nation are too great for any of us to ignore or not support.



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