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Proposed Buy America Waiver Makes BEAD Projects Feasible, Say Fiber Manufacturers

Experts said the waiver will make it more practical for BEAD projects to comply with Buy America rules.



WASHINGTON, August 30, 2023 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s proposed waiver on some domestic manufacturing requirements will help broadband companies complete Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment projects on time, but costs will remain high, telecom equipment manufacturers said Wednesday.

“It’s much easier to meet the manufacturing requirements as they are defined in the waiver,” said Lori Adams, vice president of broadband policy and funding strategy at Nokia, speaking at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event.

On August 3, Nokia announced the Kenosha, Wisconsin-based manufacturing of key electronic components for fiber-optic broadband networks that are still required under the Buy America program.

“I don’t think we’re done,” said Will Arbuckle, a policy advisor at the NTIA, speaking about U.S.-based manufacturing announcements at another event on the subject on Wednesday. “I’m confident there are going to be more companies announcing domestic investment and job creation in the U.S. for the BEAD program.”

The White House’s Build America, Buy America provision – codified in the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act – places two requirements on federally funded projects: 55% of the component cost must be spent with American suppliers, and materials must be manufactured in the United States.

This raised questions among the industry about the feasibility of expanding broadband internet infrastructure with BEAD funding. Fiber-optic connections, the fastest, highest capacity broadband technology that is expected to make up the majority of BEAD projects, will require equipment using semiconductors that are not manufactured in the U.S. at scale, say industry officials.

The proposed waiver would allow BEAD recipients meet the comply with the rules without having to worry about the semiconductor content of its equipment. Further, the waiver does away with the 55 percent component cost rule for pieces of the fiber-optic electrical equipment defined in the proposed waiver.

This will make it more practical for BEAD projects to comply with BABA requirements, these experts said.

“Now, if you told us ‘Hey, everything’s got to be ready to go by the end of this year,’ that wouldn’t be a problem,” said Robert Conger, general manager of software platforms and strategy at Adtran, an Alabama-based fiber equipment company. In addition to appearing on the Broadband Breakfast Live Online panel, Conger also spoke on another panel on the implications of the proposed BABA waiver hosted by FTI Consulting.

One component of fiber connection is not covered by the waiver: Fiber optic cables. Sourcing and manufacturing fiber in the U.S. is doable. Still, that will raise the costs of BEAD projects said Scott Wallsten, president of the Technology Policy Institute, speaking at the Broadband Breakfast event.

“If it didn’t increase costs, you wouldn’t need it as a condition,” he said. “We’ve got something that really helps fiber manufacturers, but not as much the customers.”

Other panelists argued efficiency and job creation are worth the higher costs, citing increased investments in American fiber manufacturing to meet the upcoming demand. The major cable manufacturer Corning announced a new North Carolina plant in June and Prysmian plans to convert a dated copper manufacturing facility to produce fiber optic cable.

The comment period for the proposed waiver is open until September 21.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2023 – Build America, Buy America

A new wave of activity in the domestic manufacturing market for fiber and electronic materials is happening. Companies including Nokia, CommScope, Corning and others have detailed investments to bring electronics and fiber manufacturing back to the U.S.A. A draft limited Buy America waiver was issued for BEAD projects on August 22. What are initial reactions to the draft waiver? Is there enough time to allay worries that the Buy America Act can delay deployment timelines and increase project costs?


  • Robert Conger, General Manager of Software Platforms and Strategy, Adtran
  • Lori Adams, Vice President of Broadband Policy & Funding Strategy, Nokia
  • Bill Sproull, Broadband Stimulus Consultant, DZS
  • Scott Wallsten, President, Technology Policy Institute
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

As General Manager of Software Platforms and Strategy, Robert Conger is responsible for developing the strategy, portfolio, and direction for the company’s global business while also leading the development of Adtran’s software platforms. Robert joined Adtran in 2000 and has served in a wide range of roles, including his most recent role as Senior Vice President of Technology and Strategy. Robert holds a Masters in Business Administration from Vanderbilt University and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Tennessee.

As Vice President of Broadband Policy and Funding Strategy, Lori Adams is a key member of the Nokia Government Affairs Americas Team. She is responsible for developing strategies and tools to enable increased company participation in state, federal, and international programs supporting infrastructure deployment by several of Nokia’s business organizations. Additionally, she focuses on external government relations and communications with stakeholders at all levels of government through direct engagement, filings, and participation in public forums.

Bill Sproull is a broadband stimulus expert who leads DZS’s outreach efforts to federal and state broadband funding programs and our customers who want to apply for these funds.  Bill has worked with the telecom industry for over two decades in an executive economic development and trade association capacity.  Texas Governor Greg Abbott asked him to be the first Chair of his Governor’s Broadband Development Council, during which time he and his colleagues developed the Texas strategy for broadband deployment, creation of the state’s first broadband office and fund, all of which was adopted unanimously by the Texas legislature.

Scott Wallsten is President and Senior Fellow at the Technology Policy Institute and also a senior fellow at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy. He is an economist with expertise in industrial organization and public policy, and his research focuses on competition, regulation, telecommunications, the economics of digitization, and technology policy. He holds a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University.

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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BEAD Could Spur Private Investment in Network Expansion: Experts

BEAD efforts to stimulate private investment may hinge upon the availability of the Affordable Connectivity Program.



Connect Humanity's Brian Vo at the BEAD Implementation Summit

WASHINGTON, September 26, 2023 – Federal and state broadband grants can serve as catalysts for other sources of funding, experts said at the Broadband Breakfast BEAD Implementation Summit on Friday.

The $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program is providing an unprecedented amount in federal funds for expanding broadband infrastructure, but some states have estimated their allocations will fall short of the amount needed to get high-speed internet to all of their residents. 

For Steve Coran, an attorney at Lerman Senter and counsel for WISPA, the trade group for fixed wireless internet providers, previous funding programs – the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, known as RDOF, and the Connect America Fund, or CAF – are a source of hope. The certainty of federal funds, he said, has helped many of his clients secure private investments to serve rural areas.

Using that certainty “to generate additional capital investment is, I think, an underappreciated aspect of the RDOF and CAF programs,” he said.

Willie Heflin, managing director of investment firm Kinetic Ventures, said his experience investing in smaller internet service providers confirmed this. He pointed to a provider who received $187 million over 10 years from RDOF and was able to raise an additional $240 million from equity investors, including Kinetic Ventures.

“They were able to really build a company and provide services for people who weren’t getting it before,” he said.

Federally subsidized projects can also spur network expansion by making it cheaper and easier for communities to connect to nearby infrastructure, filling some of the holes left by funding programs, said Brian Vo, chief investment officer at Connect Humanity.

The extent to which BEAD projects will be able to stimulate private investment will hinge on the availability of affordability funds like the Affordable Connectivity Program, according to Blair Levin, an analyst at New Street Research and former executive director of the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan.

“The single biggest delta for the economic models that will drive deployment in rural areas is whether the ACP is funded,” he said. “If it is, that makes the economics a lot easier. And if it’s not, it makes them a lot harder.”

The $14 billion program, established with the 2021 Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, provides monthly internet subsidies of $30 for low-income households and $75 for residents of Tribal lands. It is set to dry up as early as April 2024, with no clear path to refunding.

If you missed the BEAD Implementation Summit, sign up for Broadband Breakfast’s BEAD Starter Pack for $35/month (cancel anytime). You’ll get access to all the videos and each of the three Breakfast Club reports prepared for the BEAD Implementation Summit:

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State Broadband Officers Outline BEAD Implementation Efforts

Broadband heads from 5 states listed community outreach, mapping, and program deadlines as top priorities for BEAD.



State broadband officers from Arkansas, New Jersey, Maine and North Carolina at the BEAD Implementation Summit

WASHINGTON, September 25, 2023 – State broadband leaders addressed on Friday their key areas of focus as they look to allocate billions in Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment grants.

The conversation took place at the Broadband Breakfast BEAD Implementation Summit, along with panels of other federal grant program officials, service providers, and investors. The $42.5 billion program is getting under way, with states releasing their initial proposals for implementing it and hearing public comments. Those proposals are due to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by December 27.

Community outreach

Broadband heads cited engaging with communities – especially around challenges to broadband map data and fostering internet adoption – as being essential to the success of the program.

In New Jersey, broadband office leader Valarry Bullard and her team organized a listening tour. They go to churches and community centers to explain how high-capacity internet can play a role in people’s lives and local programs, without, she emphasized, jargon or acronyms.

“You kind of meet people where they’re at, you know?” she said.

Arkansas broadband director Glen Howie said his team went to all 75 counties in the state to explain how mapping challenges will work and work with counties to set up local broadband committees.

“You go into a county and you tell folks they have an opportunity to challenge their internet availability, they get fired up,” he said.

Mapping and data

As part of their proposals to the NTIA, states are required to outline a process for accepting challenges to the Federal Communications Commission’s map of broadband coverage. That map, now on its third iteration, is based on coverage reported by internet service providers, which is widely considered to be overstated.

Those map challenges will be crucial, both for BEAD and other federal broadband programs, the panel said. 

“It’s the foundation of all of our programs. We spend a huge amount of time on mapping,” said Angie Bailey, North Carolina’s head broadband officer. “We can’t do this work without strong, location-level mapping.”

In Maine, Andrew Butcher and the Maine Connectivity Authority have been investing in broadband mapping efforts for years, he said. A parallel mapping process to the FCC’s has helped them allocate previous broadband funds and confirm coverage reported by providers.

“It has allowed us to have a data-driven conversation, as opposed to a policy of dibs,” he said. “We want to understand where there’s service and where there’s not.”


Deadlines, both for submitting initial proposals and awarding subgrants, are on broadband leaders’ minds. Those initial proposals are being submitted in two parts, and states have one year from the approval of part II to award their entire BEAD allocations.

That has Howie’s office in Arkansas worried about completing the challenge process, grant awards, and state rulemaking before the deadline

“The one year, arbitrary timeline that we’re all under at the moment is a huge concern for us,” he said.

Taking time on the initial proposal deadlines is helping states with smaller and newer broadband offices, like Bullard’s office in New Jersey, she said, learn from other states and prepare for the task ahead of them.

“Our plan will be submitted December 27, probably at 11:59,” she said. “It’s giving us some more time for that investment. We’re learning more about our counties… we’re connecting with our community anchor institutions.” 

If you missed the BEAD Implementation Summit, sign up for Broadband Breakfast’s BEAD Starter Pack for $35/month (cancel anytime). You’ll get access to all the videos and each of the three Breakfast Club reports prepared for the BEAD Implementation Summit:

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Michigan Island Asks FCC to Require Fiber for Some Carriers

Missing out on BEAD-funded fiber could ‘materially impair’ the Beaver Island’s ability to compete, a local committee argued.



Photo of Beaver Island from the Beaver Island Boat Company.

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2023 – A small Michigan island, Beaver Island, is asking the Federal Communications Commission to require broadband carriers receiving legacy federal funds to lay fiber-optic cable, or face competition from other providers.

The 55-square mile island is the largest in Lake Michigan and had a population of 616, according to the 2021 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Beaver Island’s Joint Telecommunications Advisory Committee made the request in a September 18 filing to the FCC asking that the commission reconsider its adoption of the Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model, or Enhanced ACAM. That model updates the previous allocation of federal money from the Universal Service Fund to internet providers in rural areas.

The model makes $13.5 billion available through 2028. It allows carriers to continue receiving funding if they upgrade or continue to provide service at 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) upload by 20 Mbps download – regardless of the technology they use to do so.

This, the island’s committee says, will prevent the island from being reached with fiber-optic cable, the highest capacity, most future-proof broadband technology. The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, established in 2021, allocates $42.5 billion for states to expand broadband infrastructure, but disqualifies areas already served by federal funding.

Michigan’s broadband office estimated its portion BEAD funding could provide fiber-based internet to every location in the state currently receiving less than 100 * 20 Mbps service. That covers all of Beaver Island. But the island expects its providers will take the Enhanced ACAM  money and update their older, copper-based equipment to meet speed requirements rather than compete at auction for BEAD grants to build fiber.

“Rather than assuring [sic] those areas affected by the Order will receive adequate service,” the filing reads, referring to the commission’s official adoption of the new model on September 1, “the Order instead all but guarantees they will receive a service that will quickly become outdated.”

The committee  said in its filing that in order for an Enhanced ACAM recipient to prevent an area from being eligible for BEAD funding, it should be required by the FCC to use fiber.

Providers have until September 29 to accept or deny Enhanced ACAM funding.

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