Today the Committee will explore the pivotally important topic of high speed internet access for small business. In particular, we will discuss the extent to which small businesses have access to broadband technology, whether the prices are affordable, whether the speeds are adequate and how we can make improvements.

There is no disagreement that high-speed Internet access is critical to our economic competitiveness, and that a robust and competitive broadband market is key to an affordable and readily available Internet. For small business, it is critical for the growth of their businesses and the creation of jobs--from tracking inventory, to monitoring consumer relations and forecasting product sales, the internet is no longer a luxury: it’s become imperative to maintaining and growing our economy.

In March 2004, President Bush set forth a goal of universal broadband access by 2007, but has yet to put policies in place that will realize this goal. As a result, we are lagging behind the rest of the world. In 2000, when the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), began surveying and ranking broadband use -- the United States was ranked 4th among the 30 nations surveyed, behind Korea, Sweden and Canada. Since 2000, the U.S. has plummeted in the OECD rankings to 15th place. And another ranking of access to high technology lists the United States 21st – behind Estonia and tied with Slovenia.

We can do better and we must do better. It’s essential for America to have a national broadband strategy that encourages competition and expands broadband access. Or we will truly be left behind.

Today, from rural areas to big cities, nearly 60% of the country does not subscribe to broadband service—in part because they do not have access to service or simply cannot afford it. Even a nationwide leader in technological innovation like my home state of Massachusetts had a 45.9% broadband penetration rate at the beginning of 2006– and that was the fourth-best rate in the country. That is simply unacceptable. While small businesses are the backbone of our growing economy, the power of the tools they use to compete both domestically and globally are shrinking dramatically. With America’s Internet speeds badly lagging behind universal standards it is surprising that many businesses can compete at all.

Americans in rural communities face especially difficult challenges in overcoming problems with broadband deployment, since many lack even basic access. The outcome is clear: We place a technological ceiling on job growth, innovation and economic production. We cannot expect small businesses to fairly compete against more technologically advanced competitors. Some experts estimate that universal broadband would add $500 billion to the U.S. economy and create 1.2 million jobs. With numbers like these beckoning, we need to focus on reestablishing our technological edge.

I am glad we have two FCC Commissioners here today on our first panel – Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein – to tell us what more needs to be done to develop a national broadband strategy.

On our second panel, I am pleased to welcome Ben Scott who is a recognized leader on broadband deployment and media issues. I also welcome Doug Levin, the CEO of Black Duck Software who will give us the unique perspective of a technology business leader. Mr. Mefford will talk about an innovative approach to broadband being pursued in Kentucky and Mr. Wallsten, with the Progress and Freedom Foundation, offers additional ideas on the current state of Internet penetration. We look forward to hearing their expertise.

A few things are certain -- we need better information. We are badly lacking broadband data for small business. I plan to ask the Small Business Administration and the FCC to conduct a robust effort to gather data about small business broadband usage.

We also need a strong regulatory framework to encourage competition. Competition spurs innovation, enhances service, and reduces prices. I have advanced and supported a series of measures designed to increase competition. For example, we need to make more efficient use of spectrum, a valuable public asset. Much of our spectrum is underutilized, shelved and hoarded by incumbent companies. We can maximize this valuable asset, including use of the “white spaces” and by creating 700Mhz auction rules that encourage new market entrants.

Lastly, we need to think creatively about Internet access. We should look to reforms of the Universal Service Program and innovative public/private partnerships for additional ideas. I hope we can draw these and other issues out at the hearing and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.

I turn now to Ranking Member, Senator Snowe.