PROTECTING SMALL BUSINESS, PROMOTING ENTREPRENEURSHIP

BROADBAND ACCESS: Accelerating Small Business Recovery, Growth, and New Business Creation

By at 11 December, 2021, 11:03 am

SMALL BUSINESS INSIDER

By Karen Kerrigan –

On December 1, I joined a panel discussion hosted by the Small Business Roundtable (SBR) on “How Broadband Access Can Accelerate Small Business Growth.” Panel participants included Former Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Commissioner Mike O’Reilly; John Breyault, Vice President of Public Policy for the National Consumers League; and John Stanford, Executive Director of SBR, who moderated the discussion.

You can watch a recording of the session here.

The discussion focused on the importance of broadband for small businesses and to new business creation (particularly during COVID-19), the progress that has been made over the past several years regarding policies that have encouraged private investment and innovation, what the policy framework should look like moving forward in order to accelerate the deployment of new technologies like 5G, and the panel’s collective hopes for closing the digital divide in rural America and underserved areas through the newly signed federal infrastructure package by President Biden.

I encourage you to watch the hour-long session, where you will learn more about these issues and more. Points I made during the discussion include:

Broadband Access Essential: During the pandemic, technological tools made possible through broadband connectivity continue to be critical for small business operations, competitiveness and survival, and ultimately full recovery. As I noted, “Access to broadband is a necessity and a central piece of the nation’s infrastructure.”

Broadband Transforming the Economy and Entrepreneurship: The acceleration to “all things digital” is driving extraordinary levels of new business creation. Access to broadband and massive digital adoption are making new business opportunities possible. I noted: “Everyone must have access to the digital tools and economy made possible by broadband in order to have access to modern opportunity.”

The “Need for Speed” in Implementation of Broadband Infrastructure Package: With regard to the new infrastructure package signed into law, I noted that it is important that the implementation of the broadband provision move forward efficiently and as quickly as possible. Implementation must not be bogged down in red tape or bureaucracy and “cannot take a decade or more” as that is “another decade of communities left behind” as one panelist said.  I agreed and added the “need for speed” in implementation.

Private-Sector Investment Critical: I emphasized that private sector investment has been critical to the durability of our nation’s telecommunications network (and to innovation) and that an enabling policy environment is essential to keep private-sector investment flowing. Due to massive private-sector investment made possible through sound policies and a light regulatory framework “providers did an amazing job given the extraordinary demand placed on the networks” during the pandemic. Public-private collaboration remains key to maintaining the quality of America’s networks, to policy, and to investment and innovation moving forward.

Federal Government Agencies Must Also Communicate and Collaborate: The group discussed the fallout from an “inter-agency dispute” between the FCC and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) where the latter has intervened on safety issues relative to private-sector use of the mid-band spectrum, which had already been vigorously studied and approved by the federal government and in collaboration with affected private sector players. At the last minute – prior to the planned roll out of a new 5G frequency band by AT&T and Verizon – the FAA announced “concerns.”  This type of surprise notice by a government agency, after the fact and without serious origin, drives confusion and uncertainty and will ultimately harm investment and innovation.

“Entrepreneurs are Everywhere”: Entrepreneurs need the tools of the modern economy in order to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams and to succeed. While the $65 billion in the infrastructure package will be helpful in connecting rural communities and communities of color to broadband, it “pales into comparison” to what is needed and what the private sector will need to invest in order to meaningfully connect all Americans to quality broadband and the rollout of the next generation of wireless technologies like 5G. In addition to an enabling environment to support private-sector investment, the panel also discussed existing barriers and old rules at the local level that are slowing deployment.

Watch the full panel discussion here.

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

 

 

 

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