WASHINGTON, July 15, 2013 – The Minority Media and Telecom Council began its eleventh annual Access to Capital and Telecom Policy Conference with a lunch panel of legislators discussing efforts to increase minority access on Tuesday.
In his keynote speech, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-NC, discussed efforts at the federal level. He noted that access to broadband was crucial to economic improvement for minorities. Consequently, he highlighted the work done through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and the Broadband Initiative Program to extend broadband access throughout the country.
“In today’s world, people who don’t have access to technology or people who don’t use technology will be left behind.
Butterfield also praised President Barack Obama’s ConnectEd initiative, which aims to connect 99 percent of students within the next five years.
Following his opening remarks, several legislators at the local level shared their thoughts on how to best improve minority access to media and economic opportunities. The panelists agreed that encouraging entrepreneurship through greater access to bank loans is a key step.
Joe Armstrong, President of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, noted the laws in Illinois requiring banks to list the minority businesses in which they have invested. He suggested such a practice as a possible means of spurring banks to give out more loans to minority businesses.
Sharon Broome, President of the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women, also noted the importance of becoming active on bank boards. She described the favoritism often given based on personal relationships on such boards, conveying the need for minority involvement to ensure fair access to business loans.