To expand broadband access, we must protect our supply chains

NTCA: The Rural Broadband Association - Rural ConnectionsWe at NTCA are encouraged to see rural broadband take center stage as people talk about how to improve our nation’s infrastructure. While grappling with a pandemic, more people than ever — especially in Washington, D.C., and in the policy arena — are realizing that robust and reliable broadband is essential for people to work and learn from home and for our country to move forward. It has been encouraging to see federal and state resources being put toward addressing gaps in broadband coverage.

However, the job is only beginning when the funds start to flow. While NTCA member companies are eager to keep building broadband networks, lead times for fulfillment of orders of telecom supplies are approaching deeply concerning levels. One member recently received a quote that projected an eight-month delay for fiber, and another was told it would take one year for fulfillment of a fiber order. We’re hearing stories of delays of several weeks or months for routers and other gear.

These supply chain delays could have real implications on American consumers — and they could present real problems when it comes to provider compliance with things like buildout deadlines and performance testing obligations.
It’s terrific that resources are being made available to ensure every American has access to sufficient broadband. But it’s going to be equally important that policymakers pay attention to whether the supply chain can keep up and consider what steps must be taken to ensure that happens.