NTIA releases ‘Buy America’ waiver for BEAD deployment

The waiver for “Build America, Buy America” rules confirms that most of the broadband equipment used for the BEAD program will be made in the United States. 
(Sean Gallup / Getty Images)

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration published its final waiver for “Build America, Buy America” rules, confirming that most of the fiber broadband equipment used for the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program will be made in the United States.

In August, the NTIA proposed a waiver and estimated that the approach would mean that nearly 90% of $42.5 billion BEAD funds spent on equipment would be used on American-made products. The waiver released on Friday is aligned with those original estimates. 

“It is the single-largest investment to expand high-speed internet access in American history,” Will Arbuckle, a senior policy adviser with the NTIA, wrote in a blog post. “These are American tax dollars–and we strongly believe they should be spent on equipment made by American workers in American communities.” 

The final waiver was crafted through submitted public comments, as well as 385 meetings with firms and individuals impacted by the “Buy America” rules over the course of a year, Arbuckle wrote. 


“At first, many in the industry told us that requiring the ‘Buy America’ domestic manufacturing preference for the BEAD program couldn’t be done–and that a blanket waiver would be necessary,” Arbuckle wrote. “We worked closely with stakeholders to develop this guidance and we’re pleased to see that manufacturers have stepped up and proved this narrative wrong.” 

The “Buy America” waiver specifies that its rules will apply for the duration of the $42.45 billion BEAD deployment and issued limited waivers for non-optic glass inputs on fiber and construction materials. However, no waivers are being provided for optical fiber and fiber optic cable.

“The waiver will enhance domestic production of the products needed for that infrastructure allowing funding recipients to continue to provide economic opportunity, including job creation, through innovation and timely deployment of broadband infrastructure,” Gary Bolton, president of the Fiber Broadband Association, said in a statement.

Arbuckle’s letter notes that “Buy America” rules are already affecting communities across the country — he pointed to a factory in Tennessee where its entire workforce was retained to manufacture fiber optic cable in anticipation of BEAD deployment.

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