Fourteen National Hispanic Organizations Highlight Potential Opportunities of AT&T/T-Mobile Merger
June 6, 2011
The Potential for Increased Access to Broadband, Affordability, Robust Adoption Programs and Economic Opportunities for Latinos Cited in FCC Filing
Washington, DC - Fourteen national Hispanic organizations filed comments last week with the Federal Communications Commission to highlight the potential opportunities created by the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile. Latinos in the United States and Puerto Rico are among the leading adopters of wireless Internet services yet are far less likely to have broadband internet access at home. The commitments that AT&T is making as part of this proposed merger will resonate strongly in Latino communities, according to the organizations.
The groups pledged active participation in the FCC’s review process, writing that the proposed deal improves prospects for faster deployment of high-speed wireless internet access and the creation of a robust broadband adoption program that could help low income and Spanish speaking Americans close the digital divide:
“As community leaders, we have been advocating for more and faster [Internet] access, adoption and affordability so that the people we serve will be in a better position to take advantage of the evolving digital economy. As such, we believe this merger could provide opportunities to achieve many of these objectives by bringing the possibility of faster, smarter wireless networks to more Hispanics, further shrinking the digital divide, and bringing more Latinos in more places a critical tool to achieve the American Dream.”
The groups cited several specific areas in which commitments by AT&T as part of the merger process are likely to help Latinos. In strong terms, the groups urged the FCC to consider the combined companies’ commitment to expanding culturally sensitive education programs and robust internet adoption programs. Hispanic Americans have a special interest in these since Latino digital literacy rates are far behind the national average, especially for Spanish-speaking families. This acquisition, they write, “could be a catalyst for opening up high speed wireless broadband networks to underserved communities.”
The groups cited AT&T’s strong employee benefits and positive relationship with unions as well as AT&T’s pledge to extend these benefits to T-Mobile workers who will gain the right to bargain collectively for job security, better wages, benefits, working conditions and professional development opportunities if the merger is approved.
Small business Internet access is a crucial issue in many Hispanic communities and the combined company has already pledged an additional $8 billion to fund faster wireless service to 55 million additional Americans. This will be a key benefit for Latino entrepreneurs, including home-based businesses, from both the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
The groups also cited the benefits from faster deployment of high-speed wireless service in rural and underserved areas. Recent Census data shows that Latinos are increasingly dispersed among rural communities. These communities also tend to be more mobile and less likely to adopt home wireline broadband.
The letter urges the FCC to monitor the impact the merger may have on price levels and to ensure that prices continue to decline, as they have done historically. The letter also asks the FCC to look at economic impact, as it is expected that overall job numbers in the sector will increase post-merger, and special focus should be put on protecting the most vulnerable workers and to ensure that customer service to the Latino community is not disproportionately disrupted.
As community advocates, the signatories offered their assistance and expertise to the FCC throughout the merger review process in order to ensure the public interest is protected and the potential benefits of the merger come to fruition.
“As representatives of the largest Latino organizations in the United States representing 15% of the US population, we believe that our voices must be considered in the approval process of mergers of this magnitude,” stated Lillian Rodriguez Lopez, President of the Hispanic Federation. “While some non-Latino organizations have sought to discredit our opinions and deny us a seat at the table; we reject their efforts and re-affirm our right to comment on proceedings before the FCC and other regulatory bodies.”
The filing organizations have been involved in telecommunications and technology issues for decades, strongly advocating in front of the FCC, as well as to legislators, for regulations and policies that work to close the digital divide and ensure wider access and affordability of cutting-edge technologies to Latinos all across the country and in Puerto Rico.
The following National Latino organizations signed the letter:
ASPIRA Association, Inc.
Cuban American National Council (CNC)
Hispanic Federation, Inc.
Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA)
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
MANA, A National Latina Organization
National Conference of Puerto Rican Women
National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA)
National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA)
National Puerto Rican Coalition, Inc. (NPRC)
SER - Jobs for Progress National, Inc.
United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC)
United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute (USHLI)