Small businesses on both the low- and high-tech ends of the spectrum stand to gain from two new technology-related initiatives on Capitol Hill.
Spurred by recommendations from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) March 2010 report, “Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan,” both proposals seek to enable small companies to compete more effectively and to continue developing innovative technologies and business models.
Increased broadband access
Businesses that still don’t have access to broadband Internet services, such as those in rural communities, are the target of legislation introduced recently by Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and John F. Kerry (D-MA). The proposed legislation, “Small Business Broadband and Emerging Technology Enhancement Act of 2010,” S. 3506, would:
- Create a Broadband and Emerging Technology Coordinator within the SBA to coordinate agency programs that help small businesses adopt, use and innovate with broadband and other emerging technologies
- Task Small Business Development Centers and Women’s Business Centers with assisting small and women-owned businesses in accessing broadband and other emerging technologies
- Allow SBA 7(a), 504, and Microloan program loans to be used for upgrading broadband technology
- Create a “Rural Small Business Technology Pilot Program” that would allow qualified small businesses to obtain excess government-owned computers at little or no cost
Yes, there are still businesses that lack access to broadband—and in today’s Internet-dependent economy, that can stifle their prospects for growth. The problem needs to be remedied, sooner rather than later.
More wireless spectrum
President Obama has signed a memorandum that will double the amount of airwaves available for wireless devices in the next 10 years, enabling faster delivery of data to smartphones and similar devices.
The president is calling for 500 megahertz of government and commercial spectrum to be made available for wireless over the next 10 years. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) plans to introduce a bill to make the 500 MHz available. Wireless telecommunications companies will have the chance to obtain some of the spectrum in a government auction.
The initiative is intended to create technology jobs and increase investment in the mobile phone industry. Mobile phone services, aftermarket products and apps are all fields where entrepreneurs are finding opportunity, and increasing the amount of wireless spectrum available to keep the industry booming can only benefit small business.
While I can see some benefit from these initiatives, I am torn. I am torn because I question the priorities of acting on initiatives like these when there are so many other more pressing problems facing small businesses and indeed, the country. So while I support increased broadband, I find it hard to get behind it 100 percent when so many other issues should be getting the attention of lawmakers.
What say you? Do you support increased broadband? And how do you feel about the priorities being set by lawmakers?