Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Small Business Committee, today joined Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in introducing bipartisan legislation to prioritize broadband access for small businesses. The Small Business Broadband and Emerging Information Technology Enhancement Act would improve Small Business Administration (SBA) programs to address the lack of broadband internet and other emerging information technology resources available in rural areas.
The bill would help small businesses access and adopt these 21st-century tools. Access to broadband services in rural areas throughout Louisiana and around the country has become a top concern during the coronavirus pandemic, as businesses and workers continue working remotely.
“Between a pandemic and historic hurricane, small businesses in Louisiana are facing incredible challenges. Helping them access broadband and put new technology to use is a smart way to protect jobs. Small businesses represent 97% of Louisiana employers, I’m glad to help introduce a bill that serves these job creators,” said Kennedy.
“The economic fallout from COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated existing problems that for too long have hurt small businesses, particularly those in rural areas where access to broadband is limited. This bill will improve SBA programs to help them meet these challenges. This is a common-sense, bipartisan bill that will prioritize broadband access at the federal level. I urge members on both sides of the aisle to join us in this effort,” said Shaheen.
Specifically, the Small Business Broadband and Emerging Information Technology Enhancement Act would make the following improvements to the SBA’s approach to broadband:
Direct the SBA Office of Investment and Innovation to designate a senior employee to serve as the broadband and emerging information technology (BEIT) coordinator;
- Provide SBA employees with BEIT training to help small businesses use such technologies;
- Report on the SBA’s work related to broadband and other emerging information technologies;
- Require the SBA Chief Counsel for Advocacy to evaluate the impact of broadband speed and price on small businesses; and
- Authorize small business development centers to help businesses access and use BEIT.
The bill text is available here.