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FCC Commissioners Discuss Minority Issues at the Eighth Annual Access to Capital and Telecommunications Policy Conference

in Broadband's Impact/Digital Inclusion/FCC/Spectrum/Universal Service by

WASHINGTON, July 19, 2010- Three Federal Communications Commissioners Robert McDowell, Meredith Baker, and Mignon Clyburn encouraged use of the internet and new media applications to assist minorities and women entrepreneurs and connect them to financial resources.

The Minority Media & Telecom Council had a panel discussion with three of the FCC commissioners at the Eighth Annual Access to Capital and Telecommunications Policy Conference.

Commissioner McDowell said that in 2007 the commission passed some rulings for minorities that he thought should have been dealt with a long time ago. They banned advertisement discrimination, and reached out to Madison Avenue advertising agencies to make sure they understood what the rules meant. He said $200 million of potential revenue was freed up for minority-owned businesses through the ruling.

McDowell said that the FCC is working on spectrum re-allocation and solutions from their January 2010 Broadband Strategies for Minorities Workshop to help these entrepreneurs and small business owners. One of the best ways to help these businesses is through tax certificates, McDowell said, “I do not understand why the 111th Congress has not reinstated a tax certificate program.”

Commissioner Baker said that a combination of an unstable economy and the regulatory uncertainty in the communications industry poses the biggest problem to new business owners, but invited the conference attendees to the FCC offices to share their concerns.

Commissioner Clyburn said that media consolidation, among other issues, makes entry into the communications market difficult. She said that an emphasis on universal service fund reform, digital literacy, and broadband affordability could help make these services more available. She also lauded efforts to connect minorities and women to capital to start their businesses.

Baker said that most of the untapped resources to assist minority entrepreneurs are online or in new media technologies. She said “applications are a great thing,” and the relative cost of establishing an online business is much less than traditional means. She also said that minorities are more likely to look to the internet for job searches and information on starting their own companies. Another potential tool she advocated developing to help minorities would be an online guide that “demystifies” the FCC’s rules and regulations.

Clyburn agreed that beginning online businesses is a great, cheaper way to start a business, and that owners could transform their online business to another medium if it became successful.

The commission is required to make a report to Congress every three years on the market barriers affecting minorities in the communications industry. While late, the 2009 report is almost complete, and the commissioners said that while they were legally prohibited from giving away its contents, many of the ideas they were discussing in the panel were included.

In response to inquiries about the FCC’s enforcement of key rulings, McDowell said that equal employment opportunity notice had resulted in $140,000 in fines. He also urged the public to bring in every scrap of evidence of situations that violate FCC rulings.

Baker said “I think the FCC should work on some of the positive things, promote best practices, and have a clearinghouse of what works and what does not.” Clyburn agreed, adding that the commission needs to lead by example.

Lindsey is working with through an internship with the National Journalism Center. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in professional writing. She has worked in Virginia Tech's public affairs department, and she was an assistant editor of one of the college's news-magazines. Lindsey is from Chatham, Va.

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