WASHINGTON, D.C. – At a U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing this morning, Ranking Member Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) called on witnesses from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Small Business Administration (SBA), and other agencies to ensure that the FCC’s National Broadband Plan adequately increases broadband access to small businesses, particularly those located in rural areas. 

“The availability of broadband undoubtedly contributes to the essential business expansion and employment growth that our economy so desperately needs,” said Senator Snowe.  “I have heard from numerous small business owners from across Maine who depend on a fast and reliable broadband connection as a matter of basic business survival, but who regrettably are struggling for increased access and speed because rural areas still lack adequate broadband service.  As the Administration implements the National Broadband Plan, it is critical that the SBA, its resource partners, and other relevant agencies ensure that our small entrepreneurs have accessible and affordable broadband to help them compete now and in the future, both domestically and globally.”

Today’s hearing brought together the Chairman of the FCC, Julius Genachowski; the Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), Jonathan Adelstein; and the Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), Larry Strickling, to fully address the National Broadband Plan, which was released March 16, 2010.  Additionally, leaders from the cable, broadcasting, wireless and communications industries provided a firsthand perspective on the impacts of broadband on American households and businesses.

“The National Broadband Plan and the broadband funding projects underway at NTIA and RUS are not only critical to regaining our leadership in global broadband rankings but also with technological innovation,” Senator Snowe continued.  “The United States has run an advanced technology deficit every month since June of 2002— meaning we import more advanced technology products than we export.  For 2009, our total advanced technology deficit was an astounding $56 billion.  Given that small businesses are the incubators of innovation, the Federal government must do more to foster and increase investment and promote job creation, and that starts with greater access to affordable and high-speed broadband for these firms.”

A recent report by the Brookings Institute estimates that a $5 billion increase in broadband investment would successfully boost broadband penetration by 7 percent and result in 2.4 million new jobs throughout the economy.