As a national trade association representing top broadband and power contractors and manufacturers, the Power & Communications Contractors Association (PCCA) recognizes the need to balance the objectives of domestic manufacturing with the practical needs of our industry's mission to provide broadband to all Americans. Accordingly, we strongly support the introduction of the Buy America Build America (BABA) waivers by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) in February.

PCCA members provided direct input to NTIA and the White House Office of Management and Budget, which resulted in workable, common-sense waivers.

The BABA Act sought to bolster domestic manufacturing by promoting the use of domestically sourced materials for federal infrastructure construction. It was designed to create jobs, increase the efficiency of infrastructure rollout, and reduce dependence on foreign materials. However, concerns were raised by PCCA and others in the industry, such as increased cost and limited supply. After carefully considering stakeholder interests, the NTIA introduced the BABA waivers to provide much-needed flexibility in sourcing requirements while promoting American manufacturing. We commend them for finding a solution that best benefits all parties.  

"DOC (the Department of Commerce) has determined that certain manufactured products and construction materials are not produced in the United States in sufficient and reasonably available quantities to meet the needs of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program," the final notice stated. They will permit the use of foreign materials and products when they’re not available in the United States in adequate quantities or quality, if domestically produced materials will increase the cost of the overall project by more than 25 percent, or if it best aligns with the public interest. By allowing us these exceptions, we can increase installation efficiency, reduce costs, ensure faster delivery times, and ultimately create more technology and manufacturing jobs.  

The de minimis (a Latin term for something too small to justify scrutiny) waiver allows for foreign purchases that total up to five percent of the total eligible project costs, capped at $1 million, for purchases considered too inconsequential to justify the full application of the act. Companies stand to benefit from this ability to incorporate a broader selection of cost-effective materials without compromising project eligibility. The small grants waiver, applicable to federal financial assistance awards of $250,000 or less, enables manufacturer participation in smaller federal projects with reduced compliance burdens, while electrical contractors benefit from a wider selection of suppliers for these projects. Lastly, the waiver for minor deviations permits the use of foreign incidental components within iron and steel products, if they do not exceed 5 percent of the total material cost, providing manufacturers with a cost-effective solution to source materials and allowing electrical contractors to adhere to project timelines and budgets. The DOC maintains the authority to approve or deny any of these exceptions at their discretion. 

The NTIA designed these waivers to provide our industry with the flexibility needed to execute federal projects, such as the BEAD program, while still complying with the BABA Act. They represent a significant step forward in America's manufacturing industry, boosting our domestic production capabilities and slowing the outflow of American taxpayer dollars to foreign countries. By bringing production stateside, we are securing our energy manufacturing supply chain, reducing our dependence on other countries, and bringing jobs back to America:  

"Buy America policy supports and strengthens our domestic manufacturing economy, which is crucial for both our national prosperity and security," House Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Rick Crawford (R-Ariz.) said. "Enforcing Buy America requirements ensures that taxpayer dollars are spent here in the United States, and not enriching our foreign adversaries." 

The Power & Communications Contractors Association fully supports the introduction of the Buy America Build America waivers by the NTIA. These waivers provide a balanced solution that addresses our industry’s concerns while upholding the spirit of the BABA Act. In promoting flexible requirements, the DOC will support the timely and cost-effective execution of federal infrastructure projects, bolster domestic manufacturing, and reinforce the security of our national supply chains. PCCA is committed to collaborating with policymakers and industry stakeholders to effectively implement these waivers, and we will continue advocating for policies that strengthen our industry.