The U.S. may not have enough fiber splicers for a large-scale expansion of high-speed internet access, a goal of the government’s $42.5 billion spending package to close the “digital divide,” according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).
Labor shortage: Estimates of how many fiber technicians are needed can run into the tens of thousands, though they vary widely. Almost everyone agrees, however, that the current workforce of about 478,000 won’t be enough.
- “The Government Accountability Office estimates that some 34,000 additional workers could be needed this year to support the government’s broadband-expansion programs, though that estimate could vary depending on the timing of certain projects.”
Lots of openings: “Jamie Barton, senior vice president of global human resources and labor relations at AT&T, says the company has about 2,000 openings for installation technicians, more than usual.”
- “She says the company has been offering hiring bonuses, sometimes of up to $5,000 in tight markets like Texas, and referral bonuses of up to $2,000 to recruit workers.”
What they’re doing: “Fiber-optic cable manufacturer Corning Inc. has joined with industry giant AT&T Inc. as well as the Wireless Infrastructure Association on training and apprenticeship programs for fiber technicians.”