WASHINGTON – United States Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary Landrieu, D-La., today wrote to U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, National Telecommunications and Information Administration Acting Administrator Anna Gomez, Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Federal Communication Commission Acting Chairman Michael Copps encouraging them to ensure small business opportunities as they allocate the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s more than $3.3 billion in broadband-related funds toward expanding access to advanced telecommunications technology and services. Bringing such funds to America's unserved, underserved and rural areas will help small firms compete in the global marketplace.

“This expanded access will promote small business competitiveness by improving efficiency, lowering costs and reducing geographic barriers to commerce,” Sen. Landrieu said. “It is also my hope that small broadband providers will be crucial stakeholders in the public-private partnerships deploying these technologies.”

Sen. Landrieu encouraged priority consideration be provided to applications from socially and economically disadvantaged small businesses for the Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program. She also reiterated her call for projects expanding broadband access to rural communities to be made a top priority as well. Only about 25 percent of rural households using the Internet have high-speed access, compared to more than 40 percent of urban households.

“Rural small businesses stand to benefit greatly from this funding, particularly when one factors in the $2.5 billion in ARRA funds that were allocated to the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) for broadband loans and grants,” Sen. Landrieu wrote.

The Senator also offered to help spread the word to small businesses that grants to help entrepreneurs gain high-speed internet access are available.

Sen. Landrieu has been a strong advocate for the expansion of broadband technology and co-sponsored the Broadband Data Improvement Act that became law last October. This law encourages the deployment of high-speed Internet access to areas that need it most, notably rural communities. The bill also authorized the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy to do a 2-year report on broadband access and affordability for small businesses. The Omnibus Appropriations bill included funds to carry out that study. The Committee is monitoring the findings as well as any subsequent policy recommendations that may benefit small business growth and plans to hold a hearing on this issue going forward.

Please find Sen. Landrieu’s letter here.