WASHINGTON – United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) offering her comments on the impact of broadband technology on small business growth and economic development. Her letter comes in response to the agency’s request for public comment on the impact of expanding broadband internet access to rural parts of the country.

“Over the past few years, expanded broadband access has promoted small business competitiveness by improving efficiency, lowering costs, and reducing geographic barriers to commerce,” Sen. Landrieu said in the letter. “In my capacity as Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I am particularly interested in broadband’s capacity to create and grow small businesses.”

In her letter to the FCC, Senator Landrieu cited several Louisiana-based small businesses and rural cities that have benefitted from the use of advanced technologies, such as:

  • Network Foundation Technologies (NFT), started by two Louisiana Tech graduates, has developed technology that permits live streaming video over the internet without using large amounts of bandwidth. In partnership with Louisiana Tech University and utilizing broadband, NFT pumps signals throughout the country and around the world from Ruston, Louisiana – a rural part of the state. Without broadband, this company and others like it would not be able to be located in Ruston. However, with broadband and the proximity to the university, high-tech companies like NFT are able to provide job opportunities that are otherwise associated with high-tech corridors in Massachusetts or California.
  • Forest Hill, in central Louisiana, is a village of about 450 people. It is home to more than 60 plant nurseries and is one of Louisiana's oldest - and the South’s largest - nursery regions. Businesses and landscapers routinely visit Forest Hill to purchase wholesale plants from the various nursery operators. Broadband availability in Forest Hill has allowed small businesses there to: (1) increase efficiencies in existing commercial relationships; (2) increase market presence while reducing the cost of reaching larger markets; and (3) compete more effectively in the marketplace by introducing new services to customers.

In addition to spurring growth among the nation’s small businesses, Senator Landrieu noted that

broadband expansion has the ability to boost tourism in rural parts of the country.

“Based on 2000 data, the Federal Reserve Board in Kansas estimated that basic travel and tourism industries accounted for 3.6 percent of all U.S. employment,” Sen. Landrieu continued in the letter. “As such, tourism is an important segment of the U.S. economy and it has an amazing potential to help small business, particularly in rural communities in our country. With broadband becoming available, rural small businesses will become more visible as technology improvements remove geographic barriers for them. There is also an increased interest in both agri-tourism and eco-tourism, which benefit family farms and rural communities through increased profits and sales tax revenues.”

On November 12, the FCC sought public comment on the relationship between broadband and economic opportunity. Public comments were welcome to the agency and due by December 4, 2009.

Senator Landrieu, a long-time advocate for the expansion of broadband internet service, has remained actively engaged in the on-going discussions, particularly with respect to the growth of small businesses with the help of internet access. To view Senator Landrieu previous work on broadband expansion, please click here.

To view the entire letter sent to the FCC, please click here.