The demands of the pandemic thrust broadband networks onto center stage, and the spotlight on them is growing ever brighter as the Biden Administration prioritizes the expansion of broadband access and Congress provides historic levels of funding to achieve it. But this bipartisan policy goal is at the mercy of an unsettling global trend: a rapidly diminishing supply of chips necessary to deploy broadband services.
This semiconductor shortage will lead to longer production cycles and increased costs for network equipment, which in turn could negatively impact broadband deployment to unserved communities and thereby jeopardize a centerpiece of the Administration’s infrastructure plan at a particularly critical moment. Although broadband providers have managed thus far to withstand the pressure of this ever-constricting supply chain, the breaking point may be fast approaching.
It is therefore essential that policymakers turn their focus to the needs of broadband providers and ensure their continued access to semiconductors. This paper proposes concrete policy measures to that end. Absent such action, the fate of the nation’s broadband infrastructure hangs in the balance.