Small business committee examines broadband stimulus

The House Small Business Committee is holding a hearing right now to evaluate the impact of broadband stimulus investments on small businesses.

Since telecom giants like Verizon and Comcast decided not to apply for broadband grants, small firms should win a sizable chunk of available funds, said Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY), Chairwoman of the committee.

"In fact NTIA is required to give special consideration to disadvantaged small firms," she said in her opening remarks. "But unfortunately, that process has been less than seamless. Many small businesses have complained of challenges ranging from excessive paperwork to restrictive capital requirements."

She noted an "overly complex" application process, requiring 200 pages of paperwork. She also suggested decreasing the matching requirement for small firms. "Asking small businesses to match 20 percent of total project costs is a tall order, especially at a time when capital is increasingly hard to come by."

Ranking member Sam Graves (R-Mo.), voted against the stimulus bill that allocated about $7 billion to broadband grants. "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."

He continued: "If an application is too complicated or costly to complete, then we need to reevaluate the process....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."