WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Olympia J. Snowe (R-ME) called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help spur broadband deployment and Internet access for small businesses. As Ranking Member of the Committee, Senator Snowe asked FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, who both testified at the hearing, to help meet the Administration’s goal of universal broadband access by 2007 and consider the needs of small enterprises when they consider ways to expand broadband.

“While there is universal agreement that broadband holds the promise of technological innovation and better communications, fulfilling this charge is imperative if small businesses, particularly those in rural areas, are to have affordable access to the information superhighway and compete successfully in the global marketplace,” said Senator Snowe. “This hearing presented the opportunity to learn what steps the FCC is taking to implement the critical initiative President Bush announced for universal broadband deployment by 2007. I believe that the FCC has a critical role to play by establishing a process to collect comprehensive broadband data to help the Agency determine whether regulatory goals are being met. In addition, I would implore the FCC to consider and assess small business interests when examining broadband initiatives, as it is required to do under the Regulatory Flexibility Act.”

Senator Snowe also expressed concern that some individuals and small businesses do not have access to the Internet. Indeed, the International Telecommunications Union ranks the United States fifteenth in the terms of broadband penetration.

“The benefits of broadband to communication, the economy, culture, and American competitiveness are in abundant evidence and well documented, but what is becoming equally visible is a so-called ‘digital divide’ between those who have tremendous access and those who do not,” said Senator Snowe. “The latest International Telecommunications ranking is simply unacceptable. In the 21st century, the United States should not be ranked 15th globally in any category, especially in a category where we’ve been pioneers.”

Senator Snowe called on the Federal government to promote increased competition in the broadband marketplace to lower prices and increase access. Today, 98 percent of Americans receive their broadband service from either a phone or cable company. Moreover, according to a report by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, rural small businesses do not subscribe to broadband services as frequently as their urban counterparts.

“To boost access to the Internet, it is obvious that we need to promote more competition among broadband providers to increase bandwidth speeds and lower prices,” said Senator Snowe. “Only through a more robust market can we ensure that broadband is available to small businesses in all corners of the nation.”