WASHINGTON – United States Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary Landrieu, D-La., today announced that applications are currently being accepted for $4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) grants to help bring broadband service to unserved, underserved and rural communities across the United States. Sen. Landrieu encouraged these funds to be used for the benefit of small businesses and rural areas in a letter last month to Department of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, among others. This is the first round of Recovery Act funding for broadband infrastructure, with applications being accepted through August 14, 2009. The investment of Recovery Act funds into expanding broadband technology will bridge the technological divide, spur innovation and allow for businesses to start and grow in new areas.

“It is good to see the Department of Commerce is using this money to support households and businesses in both rural and inner-city areas, as I have encouraged,” Sen. Landrieu said. “This money is a step in the right direction to ensuring small businesses facing geographic barriers have the ability to create jobs and compete globally.”

There will be ten public workshops nationwide on the grant application process, which are part of the Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program, including one in Lonoke, Arkansas on Thursday, July 16. For more information and to register, visit: www.broadbandusa.gov.

Senator Landrieu has been a long-time 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 FY 09 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 June 10 letter here.