On May 11, staff from NTIA’s Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth (OICG) held a fifth technical assistance webinar prior to the release of the Notice of Funding Opportunity for the broadband programs authorized under the Broadband Infrastructure Law (BIL), also known as the Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA). On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed the BIL into law, which includes a significant investment of $65 billion to help close the digital divide and ensure that all Americans have access to reliable, high speed, and affordable internet.
Moderated by Sarah Bleau, Director of the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program, NTIA presented on supply chain and workforce development, including suggestions and best practices for states and territories to ensure cybersecurity in infrastructure and satisfy workforce needs to deploy broadband. In addition to moderating, Bleau provided a welcome and opening remarks for the webinar. Panelists included:
- Maureen Russell, Senior Telecommunications Policy Advisor, NTIA
- Lucy Moore, Special Policy Advisor, NTIA
Russell presented an overview of broadband supply chain materials, cybersecurity requirements, drivers of ongoing challenges in deployment, and strategies to ease constraints. This overview included materials needed in broadband deployment and activities needed during the production, logistics, and deployment of those materials and strategies to reduce cybersecurity vulnerabilities during network planning, deployment, and maintenance.
Moore presented broadband workforce needs & functions, labor constraints, potential shortage mitigations, and ways states & localities can prepare now to ease workforce constraints. Key workforce functions include design & planning needs, specialized technical operations, and construction. Workforce preparation activities include: facilitating matching between workers and opportunities; investing in and promoting training programs & apprenticeships; bolstering state & local offices in size and capabilities.
Training & workforce development programs include (but are not limited to):
- Broadband Academy at Northwood Technical College
- Fiber Broadband Association Optical Telecom Installation Certification (OpTIC)
- North America’s Building Trade Unions (NABTU)
- Verizon Skills Forward
- Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (link)
- Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants (link)
- Employment and Training Administration Act (link)
- USDA Rural Business Development Grants (RBDG) (link)
- The Federal Resources Playbook for Registered Apprenticeship (link)
During the question-and-answer component of the webinar, panelists answered questions regarding a variety of workforce development, supply chain, planning, and technical topics.
NTIA’s pre-NOFO technical assistance webinars are designed to help prospective applicants understand NTIA’s BIL broadband grant programs. To view video recording, transcript, and presentation materials for our overview on supply chain and workforce development, please visit its past events page. Thank you to everyone who viewed, asked questions, and provided valuable feedback in our pre-NOFO webinar series!