Statement of the Hon. Jared Golden on Supporting Small Entities through Investments in the National Infrastructure: Broadband
Washington, June 16, 2021
In 2020, COVID-19 widened the digital divide and highlighted the importance of reliable and affordable broadband for American small businesses. Many small businesses shifted operations online to stay connected to their customers as people stayed home to slow the spread of the virus.
This digital adaptation proved to be crucial to small business success. According to a survey by the Connected Commerce Council, 72 percent of small businesses increased their use of digital tools during the COVID-19 crisis. Unfortunately, small businesses without reliable broadband access proved to be at a significant disadvantage when it came to this digital transition.
As the Representative of one of the most rural districts in the country, I heard firsthand from many entrepreneurs about the struggles that lack of access to high-speed broadband created during COVID-19.
In my home district, at least 37,000 people do not have access to a wired high-speed Internet connection, and 9,000 don’t have a wired connection at all.
Statistics like these are not unique to Maine’s 2nd congressional district. Unfortunately, many communities across the country also struggle to access broadband at benchmark speeds.
Broadband subscriptions continue to grow; however, rural and tribal areas lag behind urban and suburban areas in broadband deployment. As a result, at least 25 million Americans still lack access to high-speed Internet—many of which live in remote parts of our country. This is known as the “digital divide.”
Factors like low population densities, rugged terrain, and fewer subscribers to spread deployment costs among have contributed to a lack of investment in broadband networks by private companies.
Without access to high-speed broadband, small firms in these areas are at a significant disadvantage. From connecting with consumers to fulfilling orders, a broadband connection is essential to the day-to-day operations of many Main Street businesses.
This lack of access to high-speed broadband has proven to be an economic drain on many communities, impacting individual success in education, wealth, and access to opportunities.
It is vital to the economic health of communities across the country and our nation as a whole that we work to close the digital divide. As Congress considers legislative action to revitalize our nation’s infrastructure, we have an opportunity to make a generational investment in broadband access.
Meeting this opportunity will require Congress and the administration to work closely with state and local stakeholders and invest the resources necessary to make universally available broadband a reality.
I hope that today’s hearing marks the beginning of a productive conversation between committee members and stakeholders dedicated to closing the digital divide and empowering small businesses throughout the country.