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Biden administration waiving some ‘Buy America’ requirements in broadband buildout

In a significant move, the Biden administration has announced changes to its $42 billion broadband program, opting to waive certain “Buy America” requirements. This decision, outlined in the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment program, seeks to facilitate the expansion of high-speed internet access across the nation by allowing funds to be used for equipment manufactured abroad.

The waiver follows a thorough assessment by the Department of Commerce, which determined that some essential materials needed for the program are not sufficiently available within the United States. As a result, the administration aims to strike a balance between supporting American jobs and ensuring the swift development of internet networks.

Enacted as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law in 2021, the Build America, Buy America Act mandates that infrastructure projects prioritize domestically produced iron, steel, manufactured goods, and construction materials. Despite the waiver, it’s worth noting that the majority—approximately 90 percent—of the broadband program’s funds are still expected to be directed toward equipment made in the U.S.

Will Arbuckle, a senior policy adviser at the Department of Commerce, emphasized the significance of this decision, highlighting the program’s status as the largest-ever investment in expanding high-speed internet access in the nation’s history. He stressed the administration’s commitment to maximizing the impact of American tax dollars by prioritizing equipment manufactured by American workers in domestic communities.

Arbuckle’s remarks underscore the administration’s recognition of the high stakes involved in this initiative. With over $42 billion allocated, the broadband program is a crucial investment aimed at addressing the digital divide and ensuring equitable access to essential internet services. Thus, while allowing for flexibility in equipment sourcing, the administration remains steadfast in its dedication to supporting American workers and communities.

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