Unlicensed spectrum may be the ticket for minority entrepreneurs


Latoya Livingston, writing for the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, said that the ability for socially-disadvantaged business to bid for spectrum abandoned by television broadcasters may be ultimately meaningless due to the costs of building out and maintaining the infrastructure to use it. But if there is enough unlicensed space protected for smaller entrepreneurs it could be just the ticket to get SBDs into the digital door.
Livingston made the case that the FCC has tried for years, admirably, to encourage minority participation in communications companies under its jurisdiction. In the end, however, there is only so much it can do and the end result has been disappointing.

She noted the remarks of David Grain, Founder and CEO of Grain Communications, who believes that even if an SBD were to end up with some of the spectrum that presumably is about to be auctioned off, the odds are they would end up selling to a large provider with the wherewithal to actually use it effectively.

But it is important for urban minorities to be in the mobile broadband ballgame, especially since studies have shown they are more prone to make use of such service than the population as a whole.

The question is how to encourage minorities with limited resources to effectively participate?

“For one,” she suggested, “making new spectrum available for mobile wireless would help to facilitate entrepreneurship by small disadvantaged businesses, minority business enterprises, and new entrants who are underrepresented in the wireless industry. Barriers to entry only inhibit innovation. For example, if more unlicensed spectrum is made available, minority-owned wireless companies could have an opportunity to innovate.  These new spectrum allocations would enable increased entrepreneurship in the minority community.”

Livingston concluded, “In the end, with the lower costs associated with starting an online business rather than a brick and mortar business, wireless’s proven ability to bridge the digital divide, and minority communities’ interest in digital entrepreneurship, unleashing more spectrum for wireless broadband would likely spur growth in minority businesses.  This would do the most to enable minorities to have a place in this new digital ecosystem.”