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As many as one in 10 Americans can’t get Internet connections that are fast enough for common online activities such as watching video or teleconferencing, and two thirds of schools have broadband connections that are too slow to meet their needs.

Those are some of the conclusions from the Commerce Department as it unveiled a detailed, interactive online map showing what types of high-speed Internet connections are available — or missing — in every last corner of the country.

The national broadband map, which was mandated by the 2009 economic stimulus bill, went live last week at http://www.broadbandmap.gov with both lofty aspirations and utilitarian goals. Government officials hope the map will help guide policymakers, researchers, public interest groups and telecommunications companies as they seek to bridge the digital divide in even the most remote reaches of the U.S. They also hope the map will serve as a valuable tool for consumers who just want to find out what local broadband options are available where they live. Read the rest of this entry »

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Puerto Rico received $26 million from the Commerce Department to develop access to broadband service on the Caribbean island, the U.S. territory with the slowest Internet connections.

Carlo Marazzi, whose company, Critical Hub Networks, Inc., was awarded the contract to undertake the project in Puerto Rico, will help the island reduce the gap in broadband access.

Marazzi took advantage of the presentation of the Puerto Rico Bridge Initiative project in San Juan to emphasize that it was not acceptable for the U.S. commonwealth to have broadband Internet service that is 78 percent slower than the U.S. national average.

The company chief noted that currently in Puerto Rico only 31 percent of the public has Internet access via broadband service. Read the rest of this entry »

by José R. Mas, CEO,  MasTec

The introduction of smartphones like the iPhone and Android operated mobile phones has created a new avenue for businesses to effectively reach consumers.  The growth in applications (better known as “apps”) is skyrocketing and enabling businesses to cater their marketing efforts to mobile broadband users – a growing market with a high concentration of minority users.

According to a December 2010 survey conducted by Nielson, 31 percent of mobile phone users in the U.S. own smartphones.  Among these users, 45 percent of Hispanics, 45 percent of Asians/Pacific Islanders and 33 percent of African Americans owned smartphones, compared to just 27 percent of White mobile phone users.   The survey also shows that minorities are leading the charge in increased mobile broadband adoption rates with these groups opting for smartphones at higher rates than White users. Read the rest of this entry »

by Marshall Kirby, Public Policy Analyst

By and large, Americans utilize credit for a sizable percentage of all transactions.  Whether it is mortgages, auto loans, student loans, personal loans, or credit cards, financing purchases is a simple fact of the current economy in the United States.  There has been a lot of news during the recession about bank bailouts under TARP, high foreclosure and default rates, individuals and families immersed in credit card debt, and lack of credit available to businesses.  Legislation has been passed regarding credit cards for consumers and the Obama Administration has attempted to extend lines of credit to businesses through the Small Business Administration and has urged banks to lend to qualified businesses.  Despite the pleas and lines of credit available to businesses and entrepreneurs, it still has not been adequate to address the needs of business owners and managers to finance their growth and operations.

Enter credit cards.  Despite the credit card reform act which was enacted in 2009, credit card companies appear to be expanding their efforts to extend lines of credit to businesses.  Credit card companies under the CARD Act (Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure) were forced to give relief to consumer card holders from excessive fines, fees, and interest rate hikes.  As a result, many card companies have reduced consumer credit lines and have enacted more stringent lending practices which have lowered overall access to credit.  However, there has been no legislative equivalent to the CARD Act for business credit cards.  In fact, in October 2010, the Federal Reserve announced that neither they nor the Federal government will attempt to enact the same protections for business credit cards. Read the rest of this entry »

posted at Chamber of Commerce.com:

An idea proposed in last year’s State of the Union address, the Small Business Lending Fundproposed by President Obama in early 2010 is finally getting off the ground. The number of loans being given to small businesses has been on the decline since 2008, leaving tens of billions out of reach for businesses around the country. But the Small Business Lend Fund looks to remedy this downshift, with $30 billion being injected into community banks to jumpstart the small business lending scene that’s been in a slump for quite some time.

Response from banks has been strong, which is good news for businesses looking for loans. That said, however, the new fund may not be as effective as Congress initially hoped. Certain Congressional reports implied that banks would lend $10 for every one dollar in received capital, resulting in $300 billion worth of loans. These figures seem rather optimistic and there’s doubt that demand is that high for such loans.

The success of the fund depends heavily on the responsibility of banks, and soon enough we’ll discover whether or not they’ve learned their lessons in regards to distributing poor loans. Banks eligible for the Small Business Lending Fund must have less than $10 billion in assets, and it’s estimated that over 100 banks have already applied. The application deadline for the fund is March 31st, so there’s still time for more banks to get on board. Read the rest of this entry »

by Marshall Kirby, Public Policy Analyst

At this point, nearly every worker in America can see that in economic terms our country is no longer suffering from a recession.  However, while our economy is no longer contracting, and is growing at very modest levels, the labor force has yet to see any meaningful reduction in jobless rates.  This is a very frustrating development, as many people claim that there are two economies which are diverging very quickly.  One has corporations which have weathered the crisis and are now back to making strong earnings, with an executive level management who have also weathered the storm.  On the other end of the economy many workers are experiencing stagnant wages, very few job openings, and lack of economic mobility.

In subsectors of the labor force, the frustration is even more apparent from employment data.  For young workers, aged 16-24, the unemployment is extremely high at 20%.  When broken down by race, the numbers get very frightening.  Latino youths have a 24% unemployment rate, and African American youth have an even higher rate at 32%.  These numbers are not only frightening, but unacceptable as both economic and non-economic ramifications will be seen in both the near and long term.

Policymakers and community advocates have been very sharp laying the blame on the usual suspects.  Failing schools, high crime, discrimination, the recession, and economically depressed regions have been offered up as the cause.  The truth is that all are to blame, and there is certainly enough of it to go around.  Our education system is becoming less competitive, and we currently are failing to educate 30% of our youths enough to even graduate from High School.  In the end, this puts the youth at a disadvantage.  Job growth both now and before the recession was mostly concentrated in sectors which require at least some college education. Read the rest of this entry »

The following article was published by Entrepreneur.com and attempts to rank U.S. Presidents according to how they helped the typical small business owner.  The list is certainly not definitive, nor is there a consensus on the rankings, but what do you thin about the top 5?  As an example counter-point, many scholars today say that FDR’s policies prolonged the Great Depression, which certainly would not have helped the entrepreneur.

Presidents Day is a holiday for Americans to honor the nation’s past and present leaders. But which presidents should small-business owners pay homage to?

The gulfs between the interests of small businesses often can be vast — a measure that helps one business can often hurt another. Some business experts would add that presidents themselves have only a marginal — if any — impact on the climate for small businesses. Congress, some say, typically has taken the lead role. And just about every president would say that they were pro-small business during their tenure in office.

Despite their wide-ranging job duties — from tamping down terrorism to reunifying the country — some presidents have managed to put small business and encouraging entrepreneurship front and center. To find out which U.S. presidents did the most for small business, Entrepreneur.com asked three people who have studied the subject: Doug Wead, a presidential historian, bestselling author and advisor to two presidents; Zoltan Acs, Read the rest of this entry »

Last month, a housing fair in San Juan, Puerto Rico, drew an estimated 34,000 visitors, of whom 2,700 were pre-qualified on the spot for home loans by mortgage companies exhibiting at the event.

A resurgence in home-buyer interest is, in no small measure, attributable to what has been billed as the most far-reaching housing stimulus that’s been offered so far by any state in or territory of the United States.

That program—which Puerto Rico’s Gov. Luis Fortuno signed on Sept. 2 and is scheduled to run through next June—produced remarkable results in the last four months of 2010, when the sales of 1,108 new homes and 3,259 existing homes were closed, representing an 18% increase over the same period the year before, according to the island’s Department of Economic Development and Commerce. The dollar value of those closings rose by nearly 35% to $868.3 million.

Even with those increases, however, unit sales in Puerto Rico grew by only 4.22% for all of 2010, which indicates just how low its housing market had sunk before this stimulus package kicked into full gear. Read the rest of this entry »

By Victor Vázquez-Hernández, National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights

In the closing days of 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau began to release the data collected earlier this year. For Puerto Ricans in the Diaspora (US-based), the 2010 census has a particular historical meaning — it marks the 100th anniversary since the first US Census, back in 1910, started counting Puerto Ricans as a separate group. It would be a good time for our community to take stock of where we are and how far we have come in one century. For the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights (NCPRR), which will be hosting its 9th National Puerto Rican Convention in Miami on October 7-9, 2011,these new data present us with the opportunity to put together a status report on Puerto Ricans in the U.S..

What will the data from the 2010 Census tell us? What long-term comparisons can we make about our presence in the US? Puerto Ricans were present in the US since before 1910, and have been here, in some cities in particular, for some five generations. What will the Census tell us about how we fare compared to other migrant/immigrant groups in the U.S.? These will be important questions to ponder as we struggle to make sense of the Census data and what it tells us about our communities stateside and, if recent data is any indication, the results of the 2010 Census are going to be a mix bag for us. Read the rest of this entry »

Summer Program Aims to Provide Non-Business Majors with the Business Essentials Needed To Succeed in a Global Economy

WASHINGTON, DC – The Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) invites qualified Hispanic university students and recent graduates of arts and social sciences colleges, to apply for the CHLI-Tuck Business Bridge Program in Hanover, New Hampshire.

The Tuck Business Bridge Program is designed for non-business majors and is open to sophomores, juniors, seniors, and recent graduates. Students who are selected to the program will participate in a four-week career focused fast track to mastery of business essentials at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. The rigorous integrated curriculum includes: Read the rest of this entry »

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