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New Bill Could Mean Free PCs for Small Businesses

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By Jason Beahm on June 24, 2010 6:58 AM

Senators John Kerry of Massachusetts and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana have introduced a bill to help small businesses that seek broadband internet access and other new technology. The bill is called the "Small Business Broadband and Emerging Technology Enhancement Act of 2010," S. 3506. It addresses many of the recommendations from the FCC's March 2010 report entitled "Connecting America: The National Broadband Plan" which calls for increased broadband access for rural small businesses.

According to a press release by the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, the legislation would:

  • Create a Broadband and Emerging Technology Coordinator within the SBA to better coordinate agency programs that assist small businesses in adopting, making innovations in and using broadband and other emerging technologies;
  • Amend the mission of Small Business Development Centers to include assisting small businesses in accessing broadband and other emerging technologies.
  • Amend the mission of the Women's Business Centers to include assisting women-owned small businesses in accessing broadband and other emerging technologies.
  • Allows SBA 7(a), 504, and Microloan programs to include upgrading broadband technology under eligible uses.
  • Create the "Rural Small Business Technology Pilot Program" to provide excess Government-owned computers each year to qualified small businesses at little or no cost.
  • Require the SBA Administrator, in consultation with the Administrator of General Services, to submit a report to the Committee on opportunities at SBA, through deployment of technology in its District Offices, can assist with the development of broadband and wireless technology for local small businesses.
  • In April, the Small Business Committee held a hearing to discuss efforts to increase broadband accessibility. The hearing specifically highlight the FCC National Broadband Plan, which included several Landrieu recommendations. 

"Universal broadband access will empower small businesses across Massachusetts," Said Senator Kerry, a member of the Small Business Committee. "It means greater connectivity for employees while giving local businesses global access, allowing a shop in Western Massachusetts to make sales in Western Europe. Today, broadband is essential to the success of our small businesses. I commend Senator Landrieu for championing the effort to connect them."

The bill has been introduced, read twice to the floor and was then referred to the Subcommittee on Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship.  In other words, the bill is in the first step in the legislative process. After bills and resolutions are introduced, they go to committees that deliberate, investigate, and revise them before they go to the floor for a general debate. Most bills and resolutions never make it out of committee. If the bill makes it out of committee, it would then have to be passed by the Senate by majority vote. It would then be sent to the House of Representatives. If the bill passed the House, it would finally be sent to President Obama for signing.

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