Cable Industry To Promote Minority Net Use

The National Association of Minorities in Communications (NAMIC) announced Tuesday the unveiling of its “Digital Bridge Alliance Project,” an initiative designed to raise Internet awareness and increase the availability of computer equipment and Web connections for minority households in the United States.

Phase I of the project includes a television ad campaign and the distribution of literature in Spanish and English to explain different ways to get low-cost computers and Internet access. Phase II involves the deployment of computer equipment, training programs and broadband wiring to the communities that need it most.

Cable companies and such channels as HBO, Lifetime, MTV and Black Entertainment Television (BET) will start running public service announcements June 1st, using the tag line “Get connected. Our future depends on it.”

The project will get help from eMachines, which will donate personal computers to community centers. Other contributors include Aha!, a soon-to-be-launched Internet service provider; COM21, which supplies broadband access technology for businesses; the Sloan Group, a Web site design and marketing company; Technically Speaking: Project AIM Partnership; and the National Association of Minority Media Executives.

Answering the Call

The project is a response to President Clinton’s call for U.S. companies and organizations to get more involved in improving Internet access for people in underserved communities.

Reports indicate that the gap in Internet use between primarily white, upper middle class families in the suburbs and minority families in urban or deep rural communities is not only wide, but growing wider. It has been widely reported that whites are more likely to have Internet access than African-Americans or Hispanics.

“Although technology is growing tremendously, equal access for people of color is still an important issue that must be addressed,” said NAMIC President Joe Lawson. “All communities have a right to be a part of the information age.”

Building Goodwill, Revenues

While the initiative will undoubtedly generate goodwill, cable companies also stand to benefit from an increase in the number of people getting online.

More computer users with Internet skills will likely translate into more subscribers to broadband Internet service. While the number of cable modem subscriptions increased by 44 percent from the first quarter of 1999 to the same period this year, only 2.3 million U.S. homes currently have the service, according to a recent study by Telecommunications Reports International.

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