In honor of Black History Month, Broadband and Social Justice will feature African Americans, companies, and others from past and present who have made extraordinary achievements in entrepreneurship, social justice, and advocacy in media, telecommunications, or technology within the nation and around the world.
Geek of the Week
Marques BrownleeMarques Brownlee, also known by his online persona MKBHD, is a 21-year-old African-American tech reviewer on YouTube. Brownlee started his YouTube career in 2008 at the age of 14 with a review of the HP Pavilion dv7t media remote, and he has grown to become one of the most respected tech reviewers on YouTube today by consumers and the industry, testing everything from unreleased iPhone glass to new Tesla cars. His YouTube channel has over 700 videos, 2.25 million subscribers, and earned him over $3 million in ad revenue. He humbly describes his channel as generating enough ad revenue to “pay for itself and make it worth my time.” Brownlee balances managing his one-man production with finishing his senior year of college and playing professional Ultimate Frisbee. Brownlee says he doesn’t yet know what he wants to do after college, but with his talent, the sky is the limit. The Internet, and YouTube in particular, has been hailed as one of the many purveyors of opportunity that the Digital Age has brought to allow people of color to become entrepreneurs, make their voices heard, create their own content, and change the negative perceptions of themselves and their communities. Tech entrepreneur Navarrow Wright recently stated at MMTC’s Broadband and Social Justice Summit, “The beauty of the Internet is that it’s different from television and radio, that no one’s stopping anyone here from creating a million dollar business.” Brownlee is living proof that with the right combination of tools and drive, anyone with an Internet connection can succeed.
People’s Hero of the Week
Dori Maynard (May 4, 1958 – February 24, 2015The world has lost one of its most influential champions of diversity in news and journalism. Dori Maynard served as President of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education since 2001, advocating tirelessly for the cause until she succumbed to lung cancer this week. Co-founded by her father in 1977, the Maynard Institute is the nation’s oldest organization dedicated to helping the news media accurately portray all segments of society, particularly those often overlooked, such as communities of color. The Institute breaks the cycle of inaccurate depictions by training media managers, journalists, and correspondents from communities of color; creating content to demonstrate nuanced coverage; and keeping media accountable through its Watchdog program. Under Dori Maynard’s leadership, the Institute’s influence and impact grew and flourished. One of Maynard’s visions in 2001 was to create an online column about developments in the news industry geared toward diversity and journalists of color because she was so disturbed by the staple online column of the industry at the time, which rarely gave any notice to people of color. By 2002, an online version of Richard Prince’s Journal-ism’s column was born on the Maynard Institute website. Under Maynard’s leadership, the Institute also trained some of the top journalists in the nation (over 5,000 total to date) and implemented many new programs to empower diverse voices in journalism. The Community Voices Program trains community members to contribute to local news organizations, giving local outlets the opportunity to cover issues they previously hadn’t. At a UNITY Journalists of Color event last year, Maynard lauded the program’s success, with 40 people in three cities having produced over 350 pieces of content. Maynard also lauded the Institute’s “BrotherSpeak: Exploring the Lives of Black Men” series in collaboration with The Washington Post, focusing on “the inner lives of black men from the eyes of black men, focusing on dreams instead of crime, love instead of sports.” Maynard previously worked as a reporter for The Bakersfield Californian, The Patriot Ledger, and the Detroit Free Press. Following in her father’s footsteps, she was also an alumna of Harvard University’s prestigious Nieman Fellowship program. Maynard passed away peacefully with her family on Tuesday. A memorial service will be held in Oakland, CA, on Monday, March 2.
Multicultural Entrepreneur of the Week
Cathy HughesCathy Hughes is the Founder and Chairman of the African American-focused multimedia empire that started with Radio One. Hughes started her career as a sales manager at Howard University’s WHUR-FM, which she took from #29 to #1 in the market and increased revenue from $250,000 to $3 million in the first year alone. Not satisfied with her formidable achievements, the aspiring entrepreneur wanted to run her own station and finally bought WOL in 1980 after being turned down by 32 banks. After pouring blood, sweat, and tears into it (a single mother, Hughes lost her house and had to move in to the station with her young son), Radio One was born. Today, Radio One owns and/or operates 54 stations in 16 urban markets in the United States. Beyond its core radio broadcasting franchise, Radio One owns Interactive One, an online platform serving the African-American community through social content, news, information, and entertainment. Interactive One operates a number of branded sites, including News One, UrbanDaily, HelloBeautiful and social networking websites, including BlackPlanet, MiGente, and Asian Avenue. In addition, Radio One owns a controlling interest in the TV One, the cable/satellite network that airs news, entertainment, and lifestyle content primarily to reflect and uplift African Americans. Hughes is the first African American woman to lead a publicly traded company, and both she and her son, Alfred C. Liggins, have been named Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst and Young. The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council also has a Fellowship named after Hughes.
Digital Divider of the Week
Reclassifying Broadband Under Title II RegulationYesterday, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service and regulate it under Title II – rules that were put in place in the Communications Act of 1934 to regulate telephone service. The rules, which were designed for a monopoly era, do not fit the robust and competitive telecommunications landscape that exists today and will serve only to diminish competition and harm consumers. MMTC and dozens of civil rights organizations from across the country have long warned of the unintended consequences that Title II reclassification will have on consumers – the uncertainty resulting from the regulation will lead to less investment from ISPs, less buildout to the people who need broadband most, slower speeds, and higher costs in the forms of taxes and fees. While the Commission has stated that it will “forbear” from the sections of Title II that will impede healthy competition within the industry, the agency has indicated that it is only forbearing for the time being, and in the future, it could implement rate regulations. Such rate regulations could cripple the growth and innovation we’ve enjoyed for decades. Contrary to what Title II proponents believe, these concerns are not conjecture. University of Pennsylvania Law School Professor Christopher Yoo released a study last year demonstrating how stricter regulation can stifle innovation. In his study, Yoo compared broadband deployment in the U.S. to that in Europe from 2011 to 2012. The European Union applies a telephone-style regulatory approach similar to Title II. Under this regulatory framework, European ISPs find themselves in a landscape with little competition or incentive for innovation, and they therefore invest far less in deployment, infrastructure, and growth. As a result, Europe now falls behind the U.S. in many broadband metrics, including access to broadband at 25 Mbps or more (82% of U.S. households vs. 48% of European households), coverage in rural areas (48% coverage in the U.S. vs. 12% coverage in Europe), and subscription price, among many other areas. The courts may overturn the FCC’s decision amidst the flurry of lawsuits and litigation that we expect to see very soon soon, and we can look forward to even greater uncertainty in the telecommunications landscape over the next several years. We can avoid that, however, as Congress still has the power to craft bipartisan legislation that protects the open Internet without causing harm to consumers. Tweet the hashtag #NetLawNow to make your voice heard!