Last night I met with Sang Cho, COO with MNET, a cable station best known for its K-pop programming. MNET is unique in the media market as it is an Asian American station offering Asian American content. Sang is always willing to provide backstage information about the media market, and is a great asset to JACL.
I view media programming and technology access as core JACL issues. In one stroke, i.e., the recent Jimmy Kimmel incident, one 30-second spot can reverse years of JACL’s campus outreach programming to address intolerance and bullying. Access to technology is at its base about access to information. As we monitor what is happening in states after the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Voting Rights Act, on-the-spot information is critical to protecting voter rights. The upside and the downside of both issues is the rapid impact they have on our mission. To ignore media programming and technology access would be like ignoring a leak in the levee.
Civil rights is about equal access. In a rapidly developing technological world, that idea has taken JACL into new realms. Thirty years ago, I would not have connected JACL to FCC issues. Twenty yeas ago, the concept of a digital divide and its impact on equal opportunity gained acceptance. Today, I think there is a clear link between civil rights and technology.
The DC office works with Advancing Justice (AAJC), who has an attorney assigned to FCC issues, and the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, on access issues. Recently, JACL and other AAPI organizations supported the development of a broadband network.
It doesn’t seem that long ago when everyone had only one option for phone calls- the traditional landline. But the birth of the Internet and broadband, along with the newest developments in communications technologies, have brought both new capabilities and many different choices for consumers—and that progress came quickly. Along the way, these broadband-based innovations have improved our lives in ways that no one could have predicted.
For Asian American and other minority communities, broadband access has delivered an important pathway to new solutions and exciting possibilities. We have been empowered to use communications technologies to connect and reach out to one another, to spur civic engagement and community involvement, to locate essential resources, and to speak out against intolerance. We can share our stories, easily and quickly, and we can learn more about our shared heritage as we strengthen our community.
While landlines were once cutting-edge technology, they haven’t been the best or most convenient option for years. That’s why almost all Americans have moved on to using broadband-enabled technologies. A recent study revealed that 95 percent of Americans no longer rely solely on copper lines. That number may be even higher for Asian American communities, which tend to adopt new technologies at higher rates.
Telephone companies struggle to balance the need to provide new and better technologies against the need to maintain a land-line network. Proposals have been made for beta trials that would allow the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to monitor test runs of new broadband networks in a few select geographic areas.
JACL supports the trial. The trial is important for the future of communities like the API Gulf Coast Chapter. Access to up-to-date technology is a life or death issue for the Chapter. During Hurricane Isaac, members of the community were cut off and were not able to obtain emergency services. New Orleans has a very high water table, and off-the-ground technology has the potential to ensure uninterrupted service to isolated communities like that serviced by the Chapter.
The symbiotic relationship between FCC issues and JACL became apparent earlier this week in a task force meeting on the Voting Rights Act in which there was a call for real-time information from even the most remote polling places. That is why JACL supports the development of new broadband services. It is an evolving world, and JACL is working in new places on relevant issues.