Universal Broadband Access Will Deliver a Brighter Future For All

At the Mississippi Black Chamber of Commerce, we believe that a strong minority business community benefits the entire state. That’s not just our opinion: There are about 25,000 African American owned businesses in Mississippi, and they make up 37 percent of this state’s economy. That translates into over $1.3 billion that African American owned businesses contribute to Mississippi’s economy.

More than ever in this time of economic recovery, forward progress is key. Sustainable economic growth for the state can only come when there is corresponding economic growth in the African American community. And in this digital age, job creation and innovation are fueled by technology; specifically, access to high-speed wireless Internet service.

Communities that already have access to this reliable, fast service are experiencing greater economic outcomes than those without, and the people who live in these communities have better chances for improved quality of life. Advanced communications technology brings opportunities to people, businesses, and classrooms. It means that individuals and families can get access to better health care, as well as opportunities for professional advancement, job training, telecommuting, and distance learning. For schoolchildren, this technology has the power not only to engage and inspire but also to offer chances for educational enrichment and higher education.

The professional, personal, and educational opportunities that are accessible via high-speed broadband are indeed essential benefits; however, the possibilities for economic growth that this technology delivers to the business community are even more valuable.

For a business owner, access to high-speed broadband means a chance to compete in the global marketplace, regardless of business size or location. It means a chance to improve customer outreach and support, order rare or hard-to-find merchandise and supplies, and improve efficiency and procedures. The result of access to faster service and cutting-edge technology will help more businesses become competitive in the rapidly-changing marketplace.

This is especially true when it comes to minority-owned businesses. African Americans tend to be early adopters and heavy users of wireless Internet, but they frequently have access only to substandard, inconsistent, or limited service, depending on where they live. Therefore, this community tends to benefit the most from increased access to enhanced, reliable high-speed wireless service. Likewise, African American business owners stand to gain from expanded and enhanced access, maybe even more than other groups of business owners would.

But access itself is a problem. Currently, many communities—including many minority and rural communities—do not have access to reliable, high-speed broadband service. Lack of access to this technology means that opportunities for economic growth and improved quality of life are out of reach. Universal broadband access is essential because the innovations and job creation that result benefit us all.

Recently, AT&T and T-Mobile proposed a merger of their two companies. The outcome of this merger will be near-universal access to high-speed broadband for virtually all Americans in every corner of the country, and this increased access will happen quickly and without the use of taxpayer dollars. This merger can bridge the digital divide. Currently, lack of access separates people on the basis of things like race and location. But expanding access to the next generation of wireless broadband to over 97% of the country, as this merger will do, will be a great equalizer and allow all people, businesses, and communities the opportunity to harness technology and achieve success.

Throughout the U.S., business owners are discovering that reliable, fast Internet service is an essential tool for commerce. Imagine the economic growth and new jobs that could occur if all business owners had access to this tool. Increased availability of high-speed broadband could be the key to success for minority business owners in Mississippi and in communities across the country, and this merger can quickly make that happen.

J.R. Jones
President & CEO
Mississippi Black Chamber of Commerce