Remarks of Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn Before the LULAC Legislative Conference
Remarks of Commissioner Mignon L. Clyburn
Before the LULAC Legislative Conference
February 9, 2011
IntroductionMuchas gracias, Brent, por su amable presentacin. To all those who traveled from far
away to join us today, Bienvenido!
I consider it a great honor to speak before an organization with such a long and
distinguished history in civil rights. Your excellent advocacy has not only led to significant
victories for Latinos; but for everyone living in our Nation. You have been tireless advocates for
communities that may not have the resources to hire expensive lobbyists. And it is no secret that
this Commissioner wants to hear from advocates just as often, if not more, than "FCC regulars."
If you would, permit me to highlight two developments on the communications front that
are of particular importance to all communities: Broadband Adoption and Media Ownership.
Broadband AdoptionMost of you know that in March of last year, the FCC released its National Broadband
Plan, and some of its findings, while not surprising to some, are still quite sobering. Altogether,
some 93 million Americans--or about one third of all of us--do not have broadband at home.
Although the national average for broadband adoption is 65 percent, certain groups are
substantially below that average. The average broadband home adoption rate among Latinos is
only 49 percent and for Americans living in rural areas, the adoption rate stands at 50 percent.
The Plan found that the two main reasons why people are not adopting broadband are
affordability and digital literacy. Collectively, we must do everything in our power to address
these issues and encourage greater broadband adoption, and it is good to share with others that
your organization is doing its part.
LULAC has worked with the private sector to build technology centers in communities
across this nation. You are to be commended for recognizing the importance of training and
education, through the creation of the largest Latino non-profit community computer center
network of approximately 60 community technology centers, with more on the way. Programs
that provide free computer-related training to students, parents, and low-income individuals, are
tremendously helpful in bridging the digital divide.
I was also delighted to learn that LULAC is partnering with One Economy on the Digital
Connectors program. Digital Connectors has been around since 2003. But last year's $28.5
million dollar grant from NTIA could enable One Economy to expand this program to the
residents of 159 public housing developments and low-income communities in 50 cities and
towns across 31 states.
This afternoon however, I would like to draw further attention to a new broadband
services adoption program that was a direct result of the Comcast-NBCU license transfer
proceeding. There has been much talk about the number of commitments in this transaction, but
one of the more important ones to me is the Broadband Opportunities Program, or "CBOP." This
potentially groundbreaking initiative, should serve to chip away at key barriers that keep low-
income and minority citizens from conveniently accessing the Internet.
Through CBOP, Comcast will make available to approximately 2.5 million low income
households, an array of digital-literacy education opportunities that could substantially increase
broadband adoption in low-income homes throughout their service area. Current broadband
adoption rates in households with annual incomes below $20,000 are approximately 40 percent.
Under CBOP, families that have at least one child in the household eligible for a free
lunch under the National School Lunch Program may be eligible to:
1. Receive the Economy version of Comcast's High-Speed Internet Service for $9.95 a
month a rate that will stay in place so long as the household remains eligible;
2. Pay no installation or modem charges or fees;
3. Receive one unit of pre-configured, quality computer equipment (which may include
rebuilt PCs, netbooks, or other devices) for less than $150; and
4. Receive access to web-based, print, and classroom-based training programs.
It is important to note that, beginning with the 2011 school year, any household that
qualifies anytime during the three-year enrollment period will remain eligible for the discounted
High Speed Broadband prices so long as the family meets the household eligibility criteria. In
other words, the program features will not change as long as there is a school age child in the
home who qualifies for the School Lunch Program.
This not only should bring about greater broadband deployment, which admittedly is
good for Comcast, but more significantly from my vantage point, it should encourage greater
broadband adoption, due to its affordability, which is good for us all. Comcast will also expand
its existing broadband networks, to reach approximately 400,000 additional homes, provide
broadband Internet access service in six additional rural communities, and offer free video and
high-speed Internet service to 600 new anchor institutions, such as schools and libraries, in
underserved, low income areas. This will mark the first time a major ISP in this country will
implement such an expansive, inclusive program, to increase broadband adoption and
deployment, and close the digital divide for low income families.
This effort will not reach its full potential however, without help from LULAC and
others, so permit me to suggest several ways we all can make sure that deserving communities
realize the maximum benefit from this product:
1) As the 2011-2012 school year approaches, we can all join the coordinated effort to
ensure that all eligible families are aware of the program. With 880 LULAC councils
nationwide, you are the key in making sure that the communities you serve are fully
aware of this program.
2) Communicating with the other partners government, schools and not for profits
with whom you work, will ensure that families are aware of the program and its launch
in September. This program only has a three year window, so every year, every day,
Diversity in Media OwnershipSince the release of the National Broadband Plan, we can point to progress being made to
increase greater adoption of broadband services. I wish I could comfortably say the same when it
comes to diversity in media ownership. The paltry numbers of minority media owners in the
broadcast context are frightening.
On the radio side, of the more than 11,000 commercial AM and FM stations, people of
color control just over 800 of those stations, or approximately 7 percent. In terms of broadcast
television ownership, people of color own a mere 3 percent of all full-power commercial stations.
And given the fact that these are 2007 figures, and that we are just recovering from one of the
most significant financial crises in recent memory, there is a very real chance that those
disturbing numbers may actually not be telling the whole story.
Over the years, there have been a number of creative proposals put forth with hopes of
increasing the levels of media ownership. There are two that I think require immediate attention
from the Commission. First, the Commission should move quickly to assemble and provide the
data that it has on media ownership. Before determining what steps are necessary to solve a
problem, we must determine the scope of that problem.
Broadcast Ownership Form 323 is the vehicle the Commission uses to obtain information
on race and gender ownership in the broadcast industry. In 2009, the FCC adopted improvements
to the Form 323 data collection process. Licensees had until July 8, 2010, to file their amended
Forms. The staff in our Media Bureau, in conjunction with outside parties, is working diligently
to assemble the proper data, and we hope to have a thorough report ready this year.
Some of you may have heard that the TV spectrum incentive auctions recommended in
the National Broadband Plan, provide a variety of opportunities for participating television
broadcasters, but I also believe we should take this moment to determine what, if any
opportunities, there may be for radio broadcast operations as we rethink this band.
The Commission should draw upon its internal spectrum and industry expertise, as well
as the input from those of you in the radio community that have encouraged us to consider these
other opportunities. Together, I believe we can formulate recommendations that take into
account, the concerns of radio and TV broadcasters and the realities of the evolving audio
entertainment sector. I personally look forward to working with the Commission's Bureaus and
Offices, as well as the private sector on this endeavor, and I believe it is feasible to conduct such
a review by the end of this calendar year.
And finally, many of us are upbeat about the potential of what the over the air television
property in Los Angeles and the cable network stations may bring to this media landscape over
the next eight years. Within a relatively short period of time -- as a result of the Comcast,
NBCU transaction--the momentum and potential for minority media ownership and expression
in this nation, could be forever augmented.
But the plain, hard truth is this: If we, as members of communities that have been
traditionally underrepresented ownership and programming-wise, fail to wholeheartedly engage
and support these emerging opportunities and the efforts of these owners, broadcasters and
programmers; if we endorse in public, but neglect in private to watch these stations; if we do not
patronize their advertisers, and refuse to fill out the ratings diaries when asked, then my friends,
these very stations that negotiated so hard to get, will indeed fail, and very soon, we find
ourselves quoting the same if not more troubling statistics, and lamenting over the same
ConclusionHowever, we have before us this day, this year, and in this decade, an unprecedented
series of opportunities, most notably in the communications space. That television or
entertainment remote switch; that mouse attached to that computer; that knob or button
controlling that radio dial, in large part, and in very significant ways, hold the key to our very
The means to tell our stories, the opportunity to educate our people, the ability to prosper
and thrive as entrepreneurs and as consumers: The power quite literally is in your hands. That
energy, that force lies within each and all of you. So let us grasp this moment, embrace these
incredible opportunities that are before us, and collectively, let us soar together and maximize the
greatness of our communities.
Otra vez; muchas gracias por la opportunidad a hablar con ustedes. Buenas tardes.
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