The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) wants to offer a limited waiver of the Buy America Domestic Content Procurement Preference provisions for the Middle Mile grant program.
That program has a budget of $980 million to cover some of the costs of building middle-mile broadband networks. Funding came through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which also included the Build America, Buy America Act.
That act includes strong domestic sourcing requirements for federal financial assistance programs. One of the requirements is the Buy America Domestic Content Procurement Preference provision, which requires all construction materials to be produced domestically and which states that the cost of the domestically produced components of any manufactured product must be more than 55% of the total cost of all components of the manufactured product.
After conducting extensive research, NTIA found that Middle Mile grant recipients would not be able to meet all these requirements because many of the elements needed for their deployments do not meet the Buy America requirements.
For example, NTIA cited industry estimates that 67% of the value of a middle mile network device is derived from communications components sourced exclusively from Asia.
In a request for comments, NTIA said it is proposing a limited applicability nonavailability waiver for the Middle Mile program for:
- Broadband routing equipment
- Broadband access switching equipment
- Broadband aggregation switching
- Microwave backhaul equipment
- Broadband optical fiber transport equipment
- Optical line terminals and remote optical line terminals
- Undersea cable equipment
- Fixed test equipment
- Telemetry router
- Telemetry switch
Considering that the U.S. has placed a high priority on making broadband available to all residents, the industry can’t afford to wait to ramp up domestic production on this equipment and the components that go into the equipment, NTIA argued.
Comments on the proposed Buy America waiver are due today.