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AT&T link with T-Mobile would serve to limit the digital divide

The late Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks, a former FCC Commissioner, wrote about the digital divide and how it negatively affects Memphis and other areas around the Mid-South.
 
 Bernal E. Smith II

The late Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks, a former FCC Commissioner, wrote about the digital divide and how it negatively affects Memphis and other areas around the Mid-South. In 2009, he wrote: “For underprivileged communities, high-speed Internet service is crucial for their advancement, socially and economically.”

He was right, and unfortunately, that digital divide continues to grow. That is why we are supportive of AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile. The promise of a new technology, like mobile broadband, would connect our communities in a way that was not possible even a decade ago. By having high speed Internet available to customers, not just through the traditional wire line service but through wireless, we would be able to help quickly and effectively limit the digital divide in Memphis and across the nation.

High-speed Internet is the most important technology of the 21st century. It is essential to economic growth and job creation. According to Connected Tennessee, a non-profit organization whose mission is to spread the availability of Internet, regardless of income or geographic location, “technology creates a better business environment, more effective community and economic development, improved healthcare, enhanced education, and more efficient government.”

This means more plainly that people who do not have high-speed broadband are at a serious disadvantage when competing for employment, accessing educational material, applying for public services, or seeking the most up-to-date medical care. We need to ensure that we have access to this technology.

This merger will certainly help increase access. AT&T has stated that as a result of this merger, mobile broadband speeds would be made available to over 97 percent of the U.S. population. This is great news and deserves our support.

Some have argued that this potential merger would create an unfair competitive environment and would lead to less choice in the market. This just does not hold up to the facts. The U.S. wireless market is fiercely competitive. In fact, wireless prices have declined 33 percent over the past twelve years. This decline occurred despite many wireless mergers including Sprint-Nextel and Verizon-Alltel.

This merger represents an investment in the future of technology for our area, and we encourage regulators and elected officials in Washington to approve it quickly. The digital divide is real, and the best way to fix it is through advanced services like the ones that would be available as a result of the combination of these two companies.

(Bernal E. Smith II is President and Publisher of the New Tri-State Defender. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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