WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, is joining a bipartisan effort to build on her work to increase broadband access for Iowa’s small businesses. Ernst is teaming up with Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to improve programs operated by the Small Business Administration (SBA) to address problems associated with a lack of broadband internet and other emerging information technology resources, and to better assist small businesses in accessing and successfully adopting these tools.
 
“Throughout my 99 County Tour, I’ve spoken with Iowa small business owners about the need for increased access to reliable broadband, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Ernst. “This bipartisan bill builds on my work to close the digital divide for Iowa communities and will help ensure the federal government is supporting our small businesses in this effort.”
 
“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,” said Senator Shaheen. “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.”
 
The Small Business Broadband and Emerging Information Technology Enhancement Act would make the following improvements to the SBA’s approach to broadband:
 
  • Directing the SBA Office of Investment and Innovation to designate a senior employee to serve as the broadband and emerging information technology (BEIT) coordinator;
  • Providing SBA employees BEIT training to assist small businesses in the use of such technologies;
  • Reporting on a biennial basis regarding the programs and activities of the SBA relating to broadband and other emerging information technologies;
  • Requiring the SBA Chief Counsel for Advocacy to evaluate the impact of broadband speed and price on small businesses; and
  • Making services such as assistance in accessing and using BEIT an authorized activity of small business development centers (SBDCs).
 
Bill text is available here.