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CWA urges state broadband offices to prioritize fiber and fair labor practices

Between October and December 2023, CWA districts and allies filed comments with over 20 state broadband offices on their proposals to implement the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program, urging states to adopt a series of measures to improve broadband deployments. 

CWA urged states to ensure investment in future-proof fiber networks and expedite the phase-out of legacy copper facilities by treating locations that the National Broadband Map shows to have available qualifying broadband service delivered via DSL as underserved; to limit the use of fixed wireless as an inferior bandaid for the lack of broadband availability by changing the availability status of areas listed on the National Broadband Map as served through licensed fixed wireless to unserved; to reclassify all MDUs within high-poverty and highly unconnected census tracts as underserved, until appropriately rebutted, to include network resiliency considerations to protect against the threat of natural disasters; and to create an affordability challenge for instances where all available broadband subscription options remain unreasonably costly, making the service inaccessible in practice.

In order to ensure buildout and deployment is done safely, correctly, and transparently, CWA also urged states to ensure funding go towards internet service providers that have strong training and safety programs, provide high quality wages and benefits, and have proactive practices to ensure compliance with state and federal safety, labor, and civil rights laws.

“CWA members have advocated tirelessly to ensure this historic investment leads to an economic boom across the state,” said CWA District 2-13 Vice President Mike Davis in support of comments submitted to the State of Delaware. “Prioritizing high labor standards, with a focus on hiring a local, highly trained workforce, will do just that by ensuring Delaware's workers and communities reap the economic and employment benefits of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

CWA recommended states require BEAD recipients to provide regular reports on the use of subcontractors, an imperative step for transparency and accountability, and outlined how states must prioritize forward-looking measures when it comes to fair labor practices, rather than retroactive measures of past compliance. Doing so will help incentivize companies’ good future performance on funded projects. 

“Over 30% of Arizona households do not have access to high speed internet, limiting residents’ ability to access essential services, such as telehealth, and the opportunity to stay connected in the digital age,” said Susie McAllister, Vice President of CWA District 7 in support of comments to the Arizona Commerce Authority. “This record funding is an opportunity to change that, but the money is only as good as the labor standards the state chooses to establish. By committing to a highly trained, local workforce that we know will build reliable broadband that will stand the test of time, we can also open the door to good, family-sustaining jobs for thousands of Arizonans in underserved communities.”

Examples of CWA's comments to state broadband offices:

Volume 1: MinnesotaIndiana

Volume 2: ColoradoDelaware

Volume 1 and 2: California