takes her official portrait Thursday, March 4, 2021, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Updated with a link to the video of VP Kamala Harris announcing the plans

Nokia said today that it will begin manufacturing fiber optic broadband equipment at a facility in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin this year. The availability of U.S.-made fiber optic equipment is expected to help the telecom industry meet Buy America requirements of the $42.5 billion BEAD rural broadband funding program.

The Nokia equipment will be manufactured in a facility owned by Sanmina, a Fortune 500 company that calls itself an “integrated manufacturing solutions provider serving the global electronics manufacturing services (EMS) market.”

According to a press release, 70% of fiber broadband lines in North America are “powered” by Nokia.

The Nokia Buy America initiative is expected to add up to 200 new jobs at the Sanmina facility. The products that will be built there include:

  • Optical line termination card for a modular access node
  • A small form factor optical line terminal (OLT)
  • OLT optical modules
  • An outdoor-hardened optical network terminal (ONT)

Vice President Kamala Harris will make an official announcement of the new manufacturing plans today. Here is a link to the YouTube stream scheduled to start at 12:40 CT. An archive should be available at that link after the announcement is made.

“Buy America requirements are key to ensuring we maximize the economic potential of the Internet for All initiative,” said a White House press release about the Nokia Buy America news. “Funds for the BEAD program will be used to purchase items manufactured in the U.S.”

The release also notes several other domestic manufacturing initiatives driven by BEAD Buy America requirements, including Corning’s plan to manufacture fiber optic cable in North Carolina, Prysmian’s plan to convert a copper cable plant in Tennessee into a fiber cable plant, and CommScope’s plan to expand a cable manufacturing facility in North Carolina.

The new Corning plant, in combination with a limited BEAD Buy America waiver expected later this summer, will essentially eliminate industry concerns about whether it will be possible for BEAD funding recipients to meet Buy America requirements, according to a research note from New Street Research Policy Advisor Blair Levin.

Levin noted that a Commerce Department official said yesterday that there will be a filing for a limited waiver of BEAD Buy America requirements later this summer.

“White the limited waiver still must be filed and ruled on, we feel confident that the BEAD program will not hit any speed bumps related to the Buy America provisions,” Levin wrote.

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