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Part Two: Navigating the Landscape of Government Funding Programs for Broadband

In Part One of this three-part blog series, we discussed AFL’s commitment to supporting broadband expansion across the nation. We offer a wide array of fiber optic cable and connectivity products that meet domestic preference requirements for federally funded projects. Now, we will begin to explore the complex landscape of government funding programs for broadband.

Navigating government funding regulations is essential for successful broadband infrastructure deployment. At AFL, we understand the complexities of these regulations and the ever-changing broadband landscape, and we are committed to guiding you, our customers, through them seamlessly.

The U.S. government has developed numerous funding programs to boost connectivity and bridge the digital divide. These initiatives are vital for expanding broadband infrastructure and ensuring underserved communities gain access to high-speed internet. Among these programs, the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program stands out as the largest, with an allocation of $42.5 billion. BEAD provides grants to individual U.S. states, who in turn award the money to recipients who will build broadband networks in underserved areas. 

Click on the image above to learn more about the multi-billion initiative to expand high-speed Internet across America

Other significant funding sources include the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), with its two sub-programs: the Capital Projects Fund (CPF) and the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF). The Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), Middle Mile Grant Program, Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program and Digital Equity Act Programs contribute to this nationwide effort as well. State and local government programs also play a crucial role in funding broadband access. Each state even has its own processes and rules for awards, and some counties and cities have established funding programs.

The Build America, Buy America (BABA) Act is a cornerstone of these regulations. BABA requires, or heavily encourages, the use of U.S.-manufactured items in government-funded projects. Waivers play a critical role in navigating these regulations. As mentioned in Part One, each U.S. government program has the authority to issue a waiver, or an exception, to the BABA rules, especially when certain materials are harder to obtain. Common justifications include the unavailability of U.S.-manufactured items or that procuring a U.S.-manufactured item would be too expensive. It's important to note, however, that each waiver is specific to a single U.S. government program.

The BEAD waiver, for example, is tailored specifically for the BEAD program. This waiver clarifies the application of the BABA rules to the BEAD program and waives some BABA requirements based on availability concerns identified by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) through market feedback. The approval of the BEAD waiver was a significant development as it established the final rules for purchasing products.

A critical point for manufacturers, like AFL and parent company Fujikura, is that a product might meet the modified requirements of the BEAD waiver but not comply with the original, unmodified BABA rules. Such a product could be used for BEAD-funded projects but might not be allowed for use in other programs where the BABA rules apply. NTIA is also directing manufacturers, including AFL, to self-certify products compliant with the modified rules of the BEAD waiver.  NTIA plans to maintain a registry of these products to facilitate transparency and project planning.

Additionally, other government programs besides BEAD have different sets of requirements. For example, ARPA became law prior to the passage of BABA regulations, so BABA does not apply to ARPA. Some government agencies, such as the Department of Defense, have significant requirements of their own in addition to BABA. It is critical for anyone receiving government funds to understand which program and agency they are getting these funds from, and articulate that to suppliers like AFL, so we can provide an accurate answer as to which products are authorized.

Navigating the web of regulations can be complex, even for the most seasoned professional. Our expertise and commitment to compliance can help alleviate your regulatory burdens, allowing you to focus on building robust broadband networks. Let AFL be your trusted guide through these intricacies, ensuring smooth navigation and compliance every step of the way!  

Read Part Three of our blog series where we will explore AFL’s strategic initiatives to support our customers on this once-in-a-generation opportunity in broadband deployment.

For further guidance on complying with BABA requirements, visit our Connecting America webpage or reach out to us at