TIA’s Broadband Nation Addresses Key Workforce Shortage Issues Cited by Recent Office of Inspector General, Department of Commerce Management Alert

By Dave Stehlin, CEO, TIA


The Office of Inspector General (OIG), Department of Commerce (DoC), recently issued a Management Alert – Challenges Industry Stakeholders Face with Broadband Deployment (Report).  The Report cites a few key challenges to the successful implementation of major broadband deployment programs administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), including the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. These programs are designed to bring high speed internet to all Americans, especially in unserved and underserved areas.

One of the challenges spotlighted by the Report is the significant workforce gap the broadband industry is facing. It is estimated that there will be a shortage of 200,000+ fiber technicians needed to deploy and upgrade the nation’s communications networks under current government programs. The Report attributes these anticipated shortages to the lack of recruiting for trained and experienced workers, especially in rural areas and the inability to attract new recruits to the industry because of a lack of national messaging that promotes telecommunications as a viable, long-term, and well-paying career field.

Another major reason for the labor gap is attrition in the industry due mainly to experienced technicians retiring. The Report pointed to Bureau of Labor Statistics data that shows the number of telecommunications workers declined by 26 percent between 2013 and 2023. The Report also suggested that the workforce shortage is not just a local, rural or state problem but it is instead a national issue because there are no national, standardized training programs, certifications, or licenses to develop a successful workforce.

These findings are consistent with issues that we have identified at TIA and are a major part of the rationale behind the launch of our new digital platform, Broadband Nation, a one-stop resource that is designed to attract, train and deliver the workforce that will be vital to the success of the BEAD and other government programs. Broadband Nation’s goal is to elevate the broadband technician profession and make it more attractive by targeting a diverse vibrant pool of talent that will lay the foundation for future generations.

In its Report, the OIG recommends that the NTIA work with or form a coalition with the broadband industry, states, and territories to develop a national database of critical broadband industry jobs and national, standardized training programs, certifications and licenses. This is exactly what Broadband Nation does. We are proud to have strategic partnerships with federal and state government agencies; academia; and industry – working closely with key stakeholders across all these sectors to help the NTIA deliver on its mission of bringing high speed internet to every U.S. citizen. TIA is committed to leading the charge in this historic effort.

Through partnerships with community colleges and technical institutes nationwide, we can expand access to broadband specific training and build the required talent pool in your community.

The Broadband Nation portal uniquely provides:

  • engaging content showing the value and benefits of working in these trade professions.
  • comprehensive, nationwide directory and links to relevant training and certification programs.
  • aggregated links to job opportunities across the nation.
  • opportunity to sign up for alerts, free interactive training courses, day-in-the life videos and more.
  • state specific career hubs customized with the state’s broadband goals, educational offerings, and employment opportunities.

Broadband Nation is generating quite a buzz and there is already a great deal of excitement amongst our partners and others in the industry about the potential impact of this one-of-a-kind resource.

To continue the momentum already established in the lead-up and post launch of Broadband Nation, we are looking forward to working closely with our strategic partner Fierce Networks (part of the Questex Technology Group) as they host the inaugural Broadband Nation Expo this fall. Broadband Nation Expo will unite broadband service providers, equipment suppliers and other industry partners with local, state and federal government leaders in one setting to address the workforce shortage and other critical challenges facing the industry. Between now and then there will be plenty of news to share on the progress we are collectively making to close the digital divide once and for all.

For more information on Broadband Nation read the announcement and join our webinar to  learn how your organization can get involved with this important mission to build the future workforce.