‘Buy American’ Waiver Request, AT&T Cuts Dividend for Builds, Jamestown Municipal Broadband Program

Telecom industry associations are asking for an exemption from ‘Buy American’ provisions in the infrastructure bill.

‘Buy American’ Waiver Request, AT&T Cuts Dividend for Builds, Jamestown Municipal Broadband Program
Photo of Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist from Monday’s In the State of the City Address

February 1, 2022 – A number of telecom industry associations said in a letter Monday to key figures in the Joe Biden administration that their industry should receive a limited exemption from the “Buy American” requirements in the Infrastructure Bill.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which allocates $65 billion for broadband infrastructure projects, requires recipients of funding to purchase 55 percent of parts from within the U.S.

“The threshold] does not reflect the realities of the global [information and communications technology] supply chain,” said the letter, addressed to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, with a carbon copy to National Telecommunications and Information Administration head Alan Davidson and Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel.

“A broadband network contains dozens of network elements including but not limited to switching, routing, transport, access, operations systems, and customer premises/end user equipment and devices,” the letter added. “Devices used in each of these network elements in turn include hundreds of components – each with their own complex supply chains – sourced from around the world from trusted vendors and suppliers. Even network products that are assembled in the United States by U.S. companies rely on foreign inputs from their global partners.”

Authored by industry associations the Competitive Carriers Association, Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, NCTA, TechNet, Telecommunications Industry Association, and USTelecom, the letter noted that waiving the requirement would still be inline with the provisions of the bill.

AT&T cuts dividend, will plow extra cash in fiber, 5G rollout

AT&T said in its fourth-quarter 2021 earnings report last week that it will slash its dividend to support its plans to increase investment in 5G wireless and fiber-optic service.

The company said in a January 26 earnings call that it expects the pay-out to be between $8 to $9 billion, compared to $15.1 billion in 2021. The company is also in the midst of closing its purchase of WarnerMedia Discovery.

The freeing up of cash will mean the company can reinvest in rolling out more fiber in the country and building out its 5G wireless network.

AT&T has already been rolling out faster internet across the country, planning to increase its current fiber footprint to cover 30 million customer locations by the end of 2025.

Jamestown mayor to pursue development of municipal broadband program

Jamestown Mayor Eddie Sundquist announced Monday plans during his “In the State of the City” address to explore a municipal broadband system.

In efforts to find solutions to the digital divide in Jamestown, Sundquist announced “the formation of a Municipal Broadband Taskforce” to see if the city can “develop a municipal broadband program through the [Board of Public Utilities].”

“Now, more than ever, we must investigate and invest in municipal broadband for our community,” said Sundquist.

There are people who “couldn’t afford internet access for their children” or who “couldn’t access internet job applications because the library was closed and they had no personal internet connections,” said Sundquist. Remote workers, which is at least 4.7 million people nationally, have brought attention to how “spotty [the] connections have become in [Jamestown],” he added.

“A low cost, high speed option that could provide a free lifeline connection to those in need, and a lower cost option to residents and businesses,” said Sunquist.

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