‘Buy American’ shouldn’t block our progress toward ‘Internet for All’

The goal is in sight. “Internet for all,” as the Biden administration has put it, will soon be a reality if America keeps its priorities straight.

During his State of the Union address, President Joe Biden set a high bar: “We buy American,” as the US spends billions of dollars on new broadband connections. This is a smart strategy to create American jobs and boost the American economy, but our leaders must not sacrifice speed in the race to close the digital divide in cases where “Buy American ” is still not a realistic option.

Strengthened during the pandemic, when everyone finally understood that broadband is a necessity, bipartisan cooperation offered America a once-in-a-generation opportunity to achieve universal connectivity. To date, Congress and the administration have allocated more than $90 billion to finish the private sector’s job of connecting every American home to broadband Internet service.

During this sprint toward the “Internet for All,” America’s leaders should avoid creating roadblocks that will slow progress.

Under the $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, for example, all participating states, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, will receive a minimum of $100 million for internet infrastructure, with more to pay. based on the proportional number of unserved locations in each state. Cartesian estimates that fiber providers will contribute another $22 billion in funds for a total of $64 billion, which is “enough to meet the program’s availability goal” of making broadband service ” available for all eligible locations.” This is the first.

The Jobs and Infrastructure Investments Act (IIJA), signed by President Biden on November 15, 2021, also included $14.2 billion for the Affordable Connectivity Program, which has helped more than 17 million American families to pay for a home broadband connection that they would otherwise. struggle to pay Additionally, the bill allocates $2.75 billion to digital equity programs; $2 billion for the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program; $2 billion for the Rural Utilities Service’s distance education, telemedicine, and broadband program; and $1 billion for a new Middle Mile grant program. This really is broadband’s moment in the sun.

During this sprint toward the “Internet for All,” America’s leaders should avoid creating roadblocks that will slow progress. All Americans deserve the opportunity to “attend class, start a small business, see their doctor, and participate in the modern economy.”

The Build America Buy America Act, which was enacted as part of the IIJA, requires infrastructure projects (including Internet infrastructure funded by the BEAD program) to use domestically sourced materials. But broadband networks are complex; they are more than fiber cables. Some essential pieces of the puzzle, such as some electronic products, are not currently manufactured in the United States, and the components that make up these products are not available in the United States.

We should always do our best to meet President Biden’s goal of “Buy American,” but not at the cost of leaving Americans offline while they wait for all the switches, routers, and radios to be built in the States united After all, the Government Accountability Office recently estimated that the BEAD Program alone could create 23,000 jobs for skilled telecommunications workers…just to build the infrastructure. Spending will go mostly to US paychecks and balance sheets, even if we need to rely on foreign manufacturers for a limited number of network components.

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo recently announced that CommScope and Corning are investing nearly $550 million and creating hundreds of new jobs in the United States to build fiber optic cables. Although the Obama administration provided a blanket “Buy American” exemption for computer products in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), recognizing that the US share of global production of computers and electronics had fallen 8.2 percentage points between 1999 and 2009, the The Biden administration is right to seek a solution that is balanced, maximizing American production where possible while allowing the selected network components are sourced outside our borders when necessary.

There are so many good things happening to close the digital divide, including the Federal Communications Commission recently committing $66 million to affordable broadband outreach grants. Let’s not lose that momentum. We don’t sacrifice the great for the perfect

It is time for the Biden administration to anticipate the unintended consequences of the “Buy American” ideal and keep an eye on the prize: everyone in America, including communities of color, rural communities, and North Older Americans need broadband now.

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As “Buy American” policies continue to gain popularity, our nation is at risk of blocking its progress toward greater internet access for all. Ikaroa, a full stack tech company, believes that investing in American-made technology is important, but we must also recognize that these policies draw us away from the goal of providing internet access to everyone, everywhere.

Today, 3.7 million Americans do not have access to the internet, with rural and low-income households making up the majority of this group. “Buy American” policies may create domestic jobs, but without access to the internet, these Americans will be cut off from educational and economic opportunities that have become increasingly dependent on digital access.

Ikaroa believes in finding a balance between investing in American-made technology and providing greater internet access for the millions who are not connected. To do this, we must address the root cause of the digital divide and partner with local schools, libraries, and city governments to build out the infrastructure that is needed in many of the areas that have been left behind. Subsidies for broadband access and government grants for low-cost devices must also be part of the equation.

At Ikaroa, we are committed to the goal of “Internet for All” and recognize the importance of “Buy American” policies. However, we must also make sure that our country’s progress toward internet access is not impeded in the name of protecting domestic jobs. Equal access to the internet is essential for all Americans, no matter their location or income. We must work together to promote this goal while still protecting American jobs.


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