According to a new report, young Latinos in the U.S. spent $17.6 billion on mobile devices and more than $500 million on mobile apps in 2012. Other studies have also found Latinos rely more heavily than other groups on wireless devices for a variety of communications needs, including job searches and keeping connections with friends and family—as a result, there also the most vulnerable in a largely unregulated wireless market.


The report - “Hispanic Broadband Access: Making the Most of the Mobile, Connected Future” - published by Mobile Future and the Hispanic Institute details how Latinos have embraced mobile technology. They’re 17 percent more likely than “non-Hispanic whites” to use mobile phones to access the Internet - and 20 percent more likely to watch video on them.

“Mobile broadband is essential for the economic advancement of Hispanics,” Gus West, Board Chair of The Hispanic Institute, said in a statement. “In today’s information age, the Hispanic community relies on mobile devices to stay connected for so many aspects of their lives - to do everything from interacting with public officials to paying bills to taking their prescriptions thanks to text-message reminders.”

Research shows people of color are more likely to surf the Internet, send and receive messages, engage social media and produce or publish media on their phones. The reason for that is simple wrote’s Jamilah King in a story published in 2011. “It’s the most affordable way to access the internet. An Android and a data plan cost much less than $1,000 for a laptop computer and broadband connection.”

Below is an excerpt from King’s 2011 investigation on how telecom used smartphones to create a new digital divide: 

In an increasingly digital world, the relative affordability of smart phones have made them the bridge across the the Internet’s long-discussed digital divide. Nearly a fifth—18 percent—of African American wireless subscribers use only their cell phones to get online, as do 16 percent of Latinos. Just 10 percent of whites say the same. While 33 percent of white subscribers use their cell phones to surf the Internet, 51 percent of Latinos and 46 percent of African Americans do. […] 

There are, in essence, two Internets emerging in the United States. The first is the one that’s driven innovation and commerce for the past two decades: traditional Internet hookups that connect wires to desktop computers and allow users to work, play and explore from the comfort of their home. That Internet is regulated—loosely, but regulated—by the federal government, which has issued rules that prohibit Internet service providers from interfering with their users’ online access. Those rules exist as an implicit acknowledgement that the Internet isn’t just fun and games, but rather the central communication platform of the 21st century, an essential medium for everything from commerce to elections.

“Mobile broadband is connecting the Hispanic community in never-before-seen ways, resulting in greater economic, civic, and political opportunities for Latinos,” said Jonathan Spalter, Chairman of Mobile Future. “But this trend could grind to a halt if policymakers don’t increase the amount of spectrum supporting wireless networks and maintain policies that continue to support investment and innovation in mobile technologies and services.”

“Hispanics will account for 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2050. It’s in America’s interest that they have the tools to succeed in the information economy. Mobile broadband provides them with those tools - so that they too can achieve the American Dream,” concluded West.

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