Several telecom associations, including the Competitive Carriers Association, NATE and WIA, banded together to urge lawmakers to fully fund “Rip & Replace” before the 117th Congress adjourns. The program was mandated by Congress in 2019, to remove equipment from U.S. communications network gear from Huawei and ZTE deemed to pose a threat to America’s national security and replace it with gear from trusted vendors.
This July, the FCC identified a more than $3 billion shortfall in the program, Inside Towers reported. “Absent the funding of this shortfall, carriers could only be reimbursed for approximately 40 percent of their costs, which would preclude them from completing the process,” say the associations in a letter to Senate and House leadership.
They note that due to the shortfall, untrusted equipment is still in service, some near military bases and airports. Failing to fully fund Rip & Replace will mean that “carriers cannot complete the job of removing and replacing vital equipment in their networks, and the result will be partial or complete shutdown of service in many areas where no other carrier provides service,” say the groups. The coalition also includes NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, the Rural Wireless Association, the Information Technology Industry Council, WTA – Advocates for Rural Broadband and the Telecommunications Industry Association.
Affected carriers have already begun the “Rip & Replace” process at the direction of Congress and the FCC, “committing and expending significant resources in good faith reliance” that the program would be fully funded, they explain. “Beyond planning, some carriers cannot begin implementation until more funding is available or they risk being stuck mid-stream with no path forward and no path back,” the groups stressed.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief