By Blair Levin
In his most recent State of the Union address, President Joe Biden highlighted the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program for connecting unserved and underserved locations to broadband. Part of the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Biden boasted that the program would connect everyone: “We’re making sure that every community has access to affordable, high-speed internet.”
However, in the same address, Biden went on to declare that “when we do these projects, we’re going to buy American…Tonight, I’m also announcing new standards to require all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made in America.”
The problem is that the country can close the rural digital divide in the next few years, or it can enforce a strict Buy American mandate. It cannot do both—requiring the administration to decide which principle it wants to prioritize over the other.
Biden’s declaration kicked off an administrative process designed to address how the Buy American policy applies to government-funded broadband networks. The day after the State of the Union, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA)—the agency…