NTIA drops 'buy American' requirements for broadband stimulus funds

The federal government won't require the "buy American" stipulations it had originally planned to require of companies obtaining stimulus money to build broadband networks.

In a notice published Friday, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is distributing $5 billion of the $7.2 billion earmarked for broadband deployments in unserved and underserved areas, said the Secretary of Commerce granted a limited waiver of the buy American stipulation in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to broadband equipment used in broadband networks deployed using stimulus money.

The waiver includes switching, access, transport, routing, customer premise and billing equipment as well as end user devices. The waiver doesn't include optic cables, coaxial cables, cell towers and other facilities that are in abundance in the United States. For other equipment not on the list, companies can request waivers case by case.

Earlier this month, Cisco Systems and Alcatel-Lucent said they wanted the buy American provisions eliminated, arguing that the requirement for U.S.-made equipment would be "grossly inefficient" and a "radical departure" from normal practices. The two industry heavyweights also said such rules would slow down projects because telecom networks typically are made up of equipment from companies worldwide. Congress said funds provided under the law passed in February generally can't be used for iron, steel and factory goods not produced in the U.S.

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Related articles:
Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent say 'buy American' not feasible for stimulus requirements
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