SHLB Requests Public Interest Waiver of “Build America” Requirements May 10, 2022
By John Windhausen Jr., executive director, SHLB Coalition
Today, the SHLB Coalition wrote a letter to United States Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo asking for a public interest waiver of the “Build America, Buy America” (BABA) requirements for broadband equipment purchased through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). While we wholly support the BABA’s goal of increasing U.S. manufacturing, the timeline of BABA’s implementation could blunt the impact of the IIJA’s historic broadband programs and make it much more difficult to close the digital divide.
The overwhelming majority of broadband materials – both network equipment and consumer devices – are not currently manufactured in the U.S. SHLB agrees that this should change, but it will take time for companies to build up their U.S. manufacturing capacity. A recent report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation found that subjecting broadband programs to BABA could jeopardize our nation’s broadband deployment and adoption objectives.
To avert a possible crisis, the SHLB Coalition is asking the Department of Commerce to issue a targeted public interest waiver that may be widely applied for broadband network equipment and consumer devices. We’re not asking that the waiver be permanent, but rather that it provide sufficient time for companies to establish manufacturing operations in the U.S. without delaying the IIJA’s broadband buildout projects.