FCC releases more details on rip-and-replace requests, extends review period

The Federal Communications Commission has released the list of eligible applicants who have requested federal funding to remove and replace equipment and services from Huawei and ZTE, which have been banned from U.S. telecom networks based on national security concerns.

Based on initial review of the applications, the FCC said that providers have requested funding that would cover approximately 24,000 units of covered communications equipment and services, across about 8,400 locations in the U.S. and its territories.

Of the 181 applications received, the agency has found 162 of them eligible for funding. According to the FCC’s list, those eligible applicants include:

-Level 3 Communications

-Inland Cellular

-NE Colorado Cellular

-Pine Belt Cellular

-Union Telephone Company

-Puerto Rico Telephone Company

-Windstream Communications

-Gogo Business Aviation

-The board of trustees of Northern Michigan University.

The $1.9 billion that Congress has allocated for the so-called rip-and-replace program is around a third of what telecom service providers have requested: $5.6 billion. The FCC had collected some cost estimates for the rip-and-replace effort back in 2019, and pointed out in the public notice that “the cost estimates submitted with applications appear to be significantly higher than the estimated amounts reported to the Commission in the 2019 data collection.” Factors contributing to that increase included the expansion of the program to include providers with fewer than 10 million customers, up to from 2 million; inflation and supply chain constraints; the cost to expedite the work so it’s completed within one year of fund disbursement, as the program rules require; and other costs of complying with program requirements that weren’t accounted for in the initial estimates.

The FCC noted that Congress has provided some guidance on prioritizing funding, with allocations first going to the smallest providers with 2 million or fewer customers; and applications from educational institutions, healthcare providers and libraries which provide their own telecom services also being prioritized before other or larger applicants.

The federal agency originally had 90 days to review the applications, including their cost estimates. Given the number of applications filed—the agency says it will be reviewing about 439,000 separate cost estimates from the 162 eligible applicants—it has given itself an additional 45 days, so that it must now act by June 15, 2022.

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