OP ED: The Internet is Critical to Asian Women's Careers and Survival by Marily Mondejar, Founder & CEO of Filipina Women's Network


The Internet is Critical to Asian Women's Careers and Survival
by Marily Mondejar, CEO & Founder of The Filipina Women's Network

Is the Internet slowing down for all of us? 

Eight months ago, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began an unprecedented effort to regulate the Internet with telephone rules from the 1930s. Since then, the private investment needed to create better Internet service has declined noticeably.  During the first half of 2015, Internet investment dropped 8%, according to figures released by major Internet providers. Excluding wireless providers, the fall was even greater – down 12%.

The results: 

1) Families especially women who rely on the Internet and their smartphones for their daily routine tasks are disadvantaged and losing opportunities for faster high-speed Internet service.  

2) The smartphone is a key lifeline for women and girls in abusive situations. Poor Internet service denies these women access to language services, help hotlines, shelters and law enforcement support severely impacting the domestic violence and human trafficking problems.

3) Barrier to entry of young Asian women to STEM careers. This is much more than just an academic dispute.  The consequences are significant. , as a 2013 Nielsen study put it, “Asian Americans are digital pioneers, adopting technology faster than any other segment.” How can women compete in the workplace?

Equally important, the report explained, “With higher rates of smartphone usage, online video consumption, and internet connectivity, [Asian Americans] are redefining the way they watch, listen, and interact.”

High-speed Internet access has been crucial to our community’s many successes. However, we must not ignore the work that still needs to be done.  Our community encompasses over 50 ethnic groups and over 100 languages. While aggregated data sets reflect heavy-use of these technologies, disaggregated data reveal much lower socioeconomic and attainment figures for subpopulations in the Asian American community. Because of the immense diversity within the population, Asian Americans more than most ethnic communities rely on in-language and culturally relevant media and services. 

This is a critical time as we hope to lessen the burden on Asian American consumers and their families and create more opportunities for women in the tech space.

Unfortunately, this progress was threatened by a FCC decision last February. By a narrow vote, the Commission approved using rules written 80 years ago to regulate today’s emerging technologies. These rules (sometimes called “Title II” because that’s the section of the 1934 federal law in which they appear) have been outdated for decades. Applying rules designed for the telegraph onto cutting-edge broadband networks will only serve to slow innovation.

To make matters worse, The Los Angeles Times has noted that these new Title II rules could soon make our monthly Internet bills “more complicated — and potentially more expensive.” 

Beyond higher costs, the fact that Title II rules have resulted in a drop in investment means that tech jobs are at risk. This should be particularly alarming as we are continuing to search for ways to increase the representation of women, particularly Asian American women, in the tech industry.

By adopting Title II rules to regulate the Internet, the FCC turned its back on decades of successful Federal efforts that encouraged Internet growth. The Commission should recognize this error and go back to the policies that will initiate growth for Asian American women and families who are continuing to adopt wireless technologies and fight for roles within the tech industry.