WASHINGTON – United States Senator Mary Landrieu, D-La., Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and former Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., today introduced the Small Business Broadband and Emerging Information Technology Enhancement Act of 2011, a measure to make broadband internet more accessible to the nation’s small businesses.  Senators Landrieu and Kerry introduced a similar bill in the 111th Congress.

“Fewer than 24 percent of our nation’s small businesses routinely use broadband application to sell their products,” said Senator Landrieu.  “This means a majority of our small businesses are missing out on opportunities to grow by not reaching new, geographically distant markets.  Increasing broadband Internet access will allow our small businesses to become key players in the global marketplace and tap into the 95% percent of the world’s customers located outside the US.  It is the rural small businesses in the most underserved areas of the country that will benefit by expanding broadband access, and their success will filter down to their communities and boost local economies.

“This project will be a success if we provide technical assistance, improve computer literacy and expand access to capital for purchasing the necessary equipment that small businesses need to grow their operations via the Internet.  We have to give entrepreneurs the technology needed to effectively compete with their international counterparts, and this legislation sets us on a path to doing just that.” 

“Universal broadband isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for small businesses hoping to compete in the global market,” said Senator Kerry. “This bill will empower small businesses across Massachusetts and the United States by allowing a shop in Western Massachusetts to make a sale in Western Europe. I look forward to working with Senator Landrieu to help our small businesses connect, compete, and create jobs nationwide.”

This legislation calls on the Small Business Administration (SBA) to take a lead role in helping our small businesses to access broadband and other advanced technologies. To accomplish this, the legislation requires the SBA to make three, key improvements, including: 

  •  Creating a Broadband and Emerging Information Technology Coordinator to facilitate the development of small business broadband initiatives within the agency, and also to act as a liaison with other federal agencies;
  • Requiring SBA resource partners, such as Small Business Development Centers (SBDC’s),to provide technical assistance related to both accessing and utilizing broadband and emerging information technology; and
  • Improving the SBA’s popular 7(a) and microloan programs by allowing borrowers to use the proceeds of their loans to finance the purchase of broadband services, equipment or other emerging technologies. 

In Louisiana, more than $160 million has been awarded to fund the expansion of broadband Internet access to underserved areas with funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).  To view a map of the awards, please click here.

To view a copy of Senator Landrieu’s statement introducing the bill, please click here.

To view a copy of the Small Business Broadband and Emerging Information Technology Enhancement Act of 2011, please click here