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Future Broadband Waiver of Buy America Must Be Product-Specific, Says Commerce

‘We aren’t doing the blanket waivers of the past,’ said Kevin Gallagher, a top Commerce Department Official.



Photo of Kevin Gallagher at TIA's BEAD Success Summit by Drew Clark

CRYSTAL CITY, Va., April 20, 2023 – A top advisor to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Thursday that any waiver of Buy America rules that might be issued by the agency for its largest broadband infrastructure program would be crafted narrowly on a component-by-component basis.

Kevin Gallagher, senior advisor to Raimondo, said Thursday that the administration is considering a narrow potential waiver of the Build America, Buy America rules for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program. But he cautioned, “we aren’t doing the blanket waivers of the past.”

Learn about Broadband Breakfast’s Made in America Summit on June 22, 2023.

The waiver of the Buy America rules for the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s middle mile program proposed in September could be issued in a matter of days, and by the end of April at the latest, he said.

Grants to awardees under the $1 billion middle mile grant program will be awarded later this Spring, said both Gallagher and Will Arbuckle, policy advisor at NTIA. Of the November 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s $65 billion for broadband, $1 billion was devoted to middle mile broadband, with $42.5 billion devoted to BEAD.

Dissecting components necessary to be waived

Speaking on Thursday at the Telecommunications Industry Association’s BEAD Success Summit here, both officials emphasized the need to balance the demands for broadband buildout with the Biden administration stated commitment to Buy America rules.

President Biden specifically referenced fiber-optic cables in his State of the Union address in February.

Gallagher, who advises Raimondo on a department-basis, spoke of the “clarion call” issued by the president as a reason for why fiber-optic cables need to be made in America.

But he also said that there were some products that cannot economically be manufactured in the United States on a scale necessary for the BEAD program.

“We believe that if it can be made in America, it should be made in America,” Gallagher said.

“Now we know that not every product required for a broadband network can be” made in America, he said. “But some can. And if can, it should be made in America.”

Gallagher praised recent announcements by CommScope and Corning to beef up fiber manufacturing in the United States.

But when asked about semiconductor products deployed with fiber-optic cables, which almost all industry officials say are not made in America in any reasonable quantity, Gallagher said the administration was open to a product-based waiver:

“What you will see at the end is a wavier that is much more targeted at a set of products that can be made in America, and a set of products that can’t” be made in America, he said.

Gallagher also addressed the implementation of the overall BEAD program, and highlighted the role of the Commerce Department’s federal program officers in helping state broadband officials implement the BEAD program.

More middle mile waiver details

Following Gallagher’s remarks, Arbuckle provided a more detailed timeline of the administration’s consideration of Buy America requirements. He emphasized his interactions with industry officials on the role of existing supply chains, opportunities to make existing telecommunications products in America, and the opportunity cost of doing so.

He also said that he and the Office of Management and Budget’s Buy America office will be issue a Frequently Asked Question document on the details of the administration’s consideration.

Responding to a question about the middle mile waiver that will be issued this month, Arbuckle said “the middle mile waiver should not be seen as prescedental” for a future BEAD waiver.

Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.

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Sen. Ted Cruz Warns of Potential Waste in BEAD Allocations

The conservative critic of the broadband program highlighted inaccurate FCC mapping data in a report.



Photo of Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Gage Skidmore

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2023 – Senate Commerce ranking member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, warned in a report on Friday of potential waste in Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment funds.

Part of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, the program allocated over $42 billion for expanding broadband infrastructure in areas with poor internet access. That funding was awarded to states in June based on the number of those areas listed in the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Map.

The 20-page report from Cruz’s office highlights how it believes the map is inaccurate, and claims that it disproportionately benefited states with fewer unserved areas – those with no meaningful internet access – than the map shows. It points to Washington, D.C., where the FCC’s map shows a third of the district’s unserved areas within the National Zoo, and notes the high allocation per unserved map location.

D.C. received fewer BEAD funds than any state – just over the minimum benchmark of $100 million set out in the program – but its small size and dense population gave it over $540,000 per location, opposed to the national median of $5,600.

The broadband map is also considered by some state broadband offices to be inaccurate. The commission has released an updated version since the allocation of BEAD funds based on challenges to its coverage data and is requiring states to accept local challenges before awarding any grants with BEAD funds.

Cruz also noted in the report that some areas slated to be served by other federal funding programs are marked as unserved in the FCC map. Funds under the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, Capital Projects Fund, and ReConnect Program have been awarded for providers to build infrastructure in areas that are still currently unserved, meaning BEAD funds were allocated based in part on areas that will receive broadband anyway.

The report calculated 85,000 of the 3 million unserved areas slated to be served by BEAD will already have been given service by another federal program.

The report also criticized BEAD’s preference for fiber infrastructure, saying alternative means of providing internet like satellite and fixed wireless could serve hard-to-reach areas for less money.

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Broadband Breakfast Webcast of BEAD Implementation Summit Available for $35

Space is extremely limited for the in-person event; Zoom in instead with the Broadband Breakfast community.



WASHINGTON, September 11, 2023 – The Broadband Breakfast community is pleased to announced that those outside of Washington will be able to participate remotely in the BEAD Implementation Summit on Thursday, September 21, via a live webcast.

Participation in the webcast, via a live Zoom webcast, is available for $35. Breakfast and lunch are not included in the live webcast.

However, both in person and live online registrants for the BEAD Implementation Summit will obtain access to the complete videos of the BEAD Implementation Summit, a pathbreaking event tapping into the energy surrounding the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.

As state broadband offices work to prepare their five-year plans for the BEAD program, this timely event will discuss the challenges, controversies and solutions surrounding this historic push for universal high-speed connectivity.

Evan Feinman, deputy associate administrator for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, will be the keynote speaker at Summit.

The event, hosted by the Broadband Breakfast community and featuring an in-person and online streaming component, will feature four panels on the most relevant and topical issues regarding BEAD Implementation. Among the panelists who have confirmed include state broadband leaders like North Carolina’s Angie Bailey, New Jersey’s Valarry Bullard, Arkansas’ Glenn Howie, Virginia’s Dr. Tamarah Holmes, Maine’s Andrew Butcher and Illinois’ Matt Schmit.

New panelists and keynote speakers are being added frequently to the program.

The complete program – including both in-person and online registration options – is available at the BEAD Implementation Summit. In-person event registration is available for $245.

“The BEAD Implementation Summit will drill into the particulars of BEAD implementation as states are looking at the largest-to-date federal investment in high-speed internet infrastructure, said Drew Clark, editor and publisher of Broadband Breakfast. 

The event will take place at Clyde’s of Gallery Place at 707 7th Street NW, Washington. 

Register now to hear what federal and state government officials, plus industry and non-profit groups, have to say about the next steps in this historic broadband funding. In addition to discounts on events and access to premium videos, Broadband Breakfast Club members have access to comprehensive monthly exclusive reports that delve into key topics pertaining to Better Broadband, Better Lives.  

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Treasury Approves $167 Million for Oklahoma Broadband Expansion

The state plans to serve 20,000 locations with 100 * 100 Mbps broadband.



Photo of Wally Adeyemo, deputy secretary of the treasury

WASHINGTON, September 8, 2023 – The Treasury Department approved on Friday over $167 million for broadband infrastructure in Oklahoma.

The money will fund the Oklahoma Broadband Infrastructure Grants Program, a state effort to subsidize broadband projects in areas that are expensive to serve because of low population density or geographic obstacles.

The state estimates that 20,000 locations will be served with OBIG-funded projects, about 13 percent of the areas lacking broadband in the state. 

Projects supported by the fund will be required to deliver speeds of 100 Mbps upload and download. That’s faster than the FCC’s broadband benchmark of 25/3 Mbps.

The money comes from the $10 billion Capital Projects Fund, established with the American Rescue Plan Act in response to the Coronavirus pandemic. The fund provides money for projects that enable work, education, and health monitoring.

More than $8 billion in CPF funds have now been awarded. Many states, territories, and tribal governments are using the money to finance broadband development projects.

Some state officials say the CPF is better suited to reach high cost areas because of its “sliding scale” model. States can provide matching funds for up to 95% of project costs with CPF money, compared to 7% under the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program.

Providers that build CPF-funded projects are required to participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, a monthly internet subsidy for low-income households. It provides $30 a month to most recipients and $75 per month to residents of Tribal lands.

The $14 billion ACP is set to dry up in 2024. It is unclear whether Congress will renew it.

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