National Telecommunications and Information Administration seeks "Buy American" wavier for $1 Billion Middle Mile grant program

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The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) wants to let broadband grant winners from two key programs sidestep “Buy American” requirements currently tied to the money. In proposals submitted to the US Department of Commerce, the NTIA sought waivers for its $1 billion Middle Mile grant and $268 million Connecting Minority Communities Pilot programs. However, it does not yet appear to have submitted any waiver requests for the much larger $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. The Buy American requirements in question would force awardees to use products and materials that contain at least 55% domestic content. For months, industry players have been petitioning the NTIA to waive those rules, arguing they are impossible to meet and will slow broadband deployments. Though their requests have primarily been focused on the BEAD program, it does appear the NTIA is listening. NTIA said in its Middle Mile waiver proposal that a joint assessment conducted with the Department of Commerce found the Buy American requirements would have a “particularly significant” impact on the program. Specifically, it found a large portion of middle mile network equipment is produced outside of the US and there are only limited options available to meet Buy American requirements. Other materials, including fiber optics and semiconductors, are also “not available in the quantity or quality needed.”

NTIA seeks ‘Buy American’ waiver for $1B Middle Mile grant program