WASHINGTON – United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today convened a hearing entitled “Connecting Main Street to the World: Federal Efforts to Expand Small Business Internet Access.” The hearing focused on implementing the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) National Broadband Plan and ongoing broadband grant opportunities made available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

“In the same way that our interstate highway system connected America by reducing travel time and facilitating commerce, broadband has minimized the barriers that separate small businesses from geographically distant consumers,” Sen. Landrieu said. “Broadband has not only impacted small high-tech businesses, this technology has changed the traditional business models that all small business owners once relied on. As such, it is particularly important that small businesses have access to broadband technology, so that they can compete on a global level. Expanding broadband access and adoption is not just the FCC’s job; we all have a role to play. We have some challenges ahead, and it is important that we understand how to best work together to implement our National Broadband Plan to benefit small businesses, particularly in rural, underserved and unserved areas of the nation.”

According to reports from the FCC, businesses with 25 employees or less pay two times more per employee for broadband than those with more than 25 employees.

“While we must expand access to these services, at the same time, we must ensure broadband is affordable for these entrepreneurs,” Landrieu said. “If our goal is to allow these small firms to grow, we cannot limit their growth by over-charging for services. Business could instead use this capital to hire new workers or upgrade older equipment.”

In a February letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Senator Landrieu cited several policy recommendations that were included in the National Broadband Plan, including:

  • Creation of SBA Broadband and Emerging IT Coordinator;
  • Improvement of Broadband Counseling Among SBA Resource Partners;
  • Expanding the reach of Entrepreneurial Development Service Via Broadband and Online Applications;
  • Creation of Public-Private Partnership on Technology Training for Small Disadvantaged Businesses; and
  • Creation of Pilot Entrepreneurial Development Programs through the Economic Development Administration (EDA).

A copy of the letter can be viewed by clicking here.

During the hearing, Senator Landrieu announced the release of a Federal guide for small businesses interested in applying for loans and grants, to connect small entities with valuable Federal resources. A complete copy of the guide can be viewed by clicking here.

Additionally, Senator Landrieu announced that the Small Business Committee will hold a hearing in the coming weeks with small business owners to discuss the availability and affordability of broadband Internet access.

To view the complete and to view written testimony from all the witnesses, please click here.