Hispanic Access to Technology

with Brenda Victoria Castillo of the National Hispanic Media Coalition

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed a divide, highlighting longstanding digital gaps that have disproportionately impacted diverse communities, including Hispanics.

Brenda Victoria Castillo, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, joins host Tetiana Anderson to discuss the impact of the digital divide — and how representation in policy decisions can benefit the Hispanic community.

Posted on:

August 31, 2021

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: From adults working from home to students engaged in virtual learning, to healthcare, to shopping, Americans have become increasingly reliant on the Internet due to pandemic restrictions. But COVID-19 has also exposed a divide, highlighting long-standing digital gaps that have affected marginalized communities, including Hispanics. Hello and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. The digital divide is about more than access and adoption of technology. It's also about representation. And joining me to talk about this very important topic is Brenda Victoria Castillo. She is president and C.E.O. of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. And Brenda, thanks for joining me.

Castillo: Thank you, Tetiana. It's wonderful to be here with you on "Newsmakers."

Anderson: So I want to talk about the issue of a seat at the table and how important that is when it comes to how broadband, digital technology, access and adoption and all of that is governed. I mean, I suspect it's not just about the end user here. It's also about the decision makers in the process, right?

Castillo: Yes. As an organization dedicated to tackling discrimination in this country, the digital divide is a plain example of the inequalities our community, Latinos, are facing on a daily basis. Contributing to this issue is the lack of Latino representation from the White House to boardrooms in critical roles that are making decisions for us. You ask how important? It is extremely important to have Latinos who understand the pulse of our communities in these positions. Our voices must be heard and our issues must be addressed.

Anderson: So how would you say these decision makers are doing when it comes to incorporating the perspectives of Hispanics, the needs of Hispanics?

Castillo: Not very well, Tetiana. In regards to the FCC commissioner seat, we have not had representation on the FCC for 2 decades, 20 years. The last commissioner was Gloria Tristani. For years, including at the present time, Latinx have been left out of key civil rights conversations despite making up nearly 20% of the U.S. population. This exclusion is not only unacceptable, but it's dangerous, especially when addressing tech, telecommunications, and media issues. Representation is long overdue, and NHMC has written to President Biden encouraging the President that this is the opportunity for a Latinx to sit as FCC commissioner or as FCC chair. And when either seat is filled with a Latino that understands the pulse of the community, we are confident that they will serve as the appropriate bridge between historical marginalized communities and telecommunications regulation.

Anderson: So you're clearly advocating for a seat at the table. That's definitely important. But I also know that you agree that options to help individuals and to help groups get access to broadband is also key. So what are some of the big barriers that the Hispanic community is facing when it comes to adoption, being able to get broadband, being able to keep it?

Castillo: So the Latino community is one of the least connected in this country. Basically, it's affordability. Sometimes they have to make a decision whether to pay their Internet or put food on the table. Access to Internet determines so much of our lives, including the ability to get vaccinated and/or apply for government services. I'm so concerned about our youth. When I went to school, Tetiana, I needed books and the library to do my homework. We were all heartbroken when we saw that photo that went viral with two young Latinas in Salinas, California, and they were actually sitting outside on the asphalt of a fast-food restaurant just to be able to use the Wi-Fi to do their schoolwork. I mean, that's terrible. We're in the United States of America. Every child should have digital equipment, affordable Internet, and digital literacy.

Anderson: It absolutely was heartbreaking to see that. But how are you seeing those kinds of obstacles being overcome? I mean, what is working?

Castillo: Well, NHMC was instrumental in making sure that the Emergency Broadband program got rolled out correctly. The EBB as a monthly Internet discount program focused on helping households afford access to the Internet. We also belong to a coalition called Broadband Equity for All, and this includes other nonprofit organizations, advocacy organizations, and ISPs. The members are working collaboratively to ensure low-income communities are not left behind. So seeing collaboration in unified force is a positive and powerful. And then there's the bipartisan infrastructure package invested in digital equity for communities like ours. That's key to surviving and making sure that future generations are successful.

Anderson: And Brenda, if people want to know more about the work that the coalition does, where can they go? What's the website?

Castillo: The website is nmhc.org. And you can also follow us on social media.

Anderson: Brenda Victoria Castillo of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, thank you so much for being here.

Castillo: Thank you.

Anderson: And thanks to our viewers as well for watching. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the nation, just log on to comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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