Opening Statement for Hearing on
“The Recovery Act and Broadband: Evaluation of Broadband Investments on Small Businesses and Job Creation”
Committee on Small Business
United States House of Representatives
October 28, 2009
Good morning and thank you for participating in today’s committee hearing reviewing the broadband provisions in the stimulus. I would like to thank Chairwoman Velázquez for holding this timely hearing. It is no secret that I voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or stimulus bill. The amount of spending contained in that measure was unprecedented and I believe fiscally irresponsible. However, that vote has come and gone and we must move forward to ensure that the $787 billion worth of taxpayer dollars is used wisely and not abused.
The stimulus bill provided $7.2 billion primarily for broadband grant and loan programs to expand broadband access to those who do not have it – a very worthy goal and one with significant economic consequences. The advantages of broadband services in communities both urban and rural are substantial. Access to these services puts information at the fingertips of our students; job seekers can search and apply for job opportunities at many of today’s leading businesses; small businesses can improve market access and compete with their larger counterparts on a more level playing field; health information technology can help doctors share patient information that leads to a quicker diagnosis; consumers can shop better, smarter and more efficiently; and the economic development opportunities are endless. However, the lack of sufficient access and speeds has put a growing number of people at a disadvantage. Students can’t access the same level of information as their connected peers, job searches are more difficult; communities are unable to attract new investment, and opportunities for small businesses are limited.
The advantages of broadband service are clear. Now we must review the various programs that are designed to bring broadband to everyone and ensure that dollars are being spent efficiently, effectively, and without abuse. If an application is too complicated or costly to complete, then we need to reevaluate the process. If definitions, as defined by government officials, are having unintended consequences, then they should be revised. Bureaucratic red tape should not be prohibiting businesses from providing high speed broadband services to everyone. Moreover, the government should not be subsidizing areas with adequate broadband coverage. It is important to make certain that steps are being taken to prevent government subsidized competition.
As the first round of broadband funding concludes, it is imperative that the government make changes to address these concerns and ensure that future rounds operate in a way that improves the economy, helps small businesses and providers, and expands broadband coverage to everyone. We have a distinguished panel of witnesses here today. I look forward to hearing their thoughts about the broadband programs included in the stimulus bill are how they have been working.
Again, thank you Madam Chairwoman, and I yield back my time.