Gina Raimondo Addresses Broadband Supply Chain Issues Ahead Of BEAD Rollout

Gina Raimondo responds to concerns that Build America requirements negatively impact the broadband supply chain.

Gina Raimondo Addresses Broadband Supply Chain Issues Ahead Of BEAD Rollout
Photo of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo in May 2023 by the International Trade Administration

February 14, 2024 – U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo lamented on supply chain concerns affecting the expansion of broadband into rural areas, citing the Build America Buy America Act as a potential obstacle, during a speech at the 2024 RTIME conference in Tampa, Florida. 

A component of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed by President Joe Biden’s, Build America Buy America mandates that materials used in projects funded by the government are primarily sourced from within the United States. Broadband advocates have groused that these restrictions hamper America’s ability to expand internet connectivity. 

With Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment money set to be made available in 2024 and 2025, these potential supply chain inadequacies have been spotlighted as a source of concern. Raimondo warned that larger companies could stockpile supplies, making it more difficult for smaller companies to access supplies.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration reacted to these obstacles by floating a potential waiver for some BEAD beneficiaries. The waiver would make an exception for materials that, “are not produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available quantities or a satisfactory quality that can fully comply with all requirements of the Buy America Preference under BABA.”

Despite the concession to allow some materials used in BEAD-funded projects to be sourced outside the United States, Raimondo underlined that the Biden administration remains,  “serious about creating jobs in America.”

Raimondo also addressed concerns that BABA could negatively impact Passive Optical Network equipment. PON, a system which connects fiber optic cabling and signals to users, is expected to ramp up equipment production in the coming year as cable operators prepare to meet an expected demand increase caused by BEAD.

Raimondo attempted to quell these concerns, reassuring the crowd that the administration is working to ensure a smooth rollout 

Manufacturers are rapidly establishing relationships with American suppliers to satisfy BABA mandates. In August 2023, Nokia announced an agreement with their manufacturing collaborator Sanmina to build certain fiber network components in Wisconsin.

In May 2023, India-based fiber optic manufacturer STL unveiled a new plan to establish a manufacturing plant in South Carolina. In July 2023, CommScope announced an expansion of their already-existing plants in North Carolina, aiming to build on the 2 billion in fiber drop cable produced every year.  


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