‘Rip & Replace’ Application Deadline Passes

UPDATE Yesterday was the FCC’s deadline for carriers who want to be reimbursed for the removal, disposal and replacement of network gear from Huawei and ZTE that the U.S. deems untrusted. Those who wanted to apply must have filed at least one application.

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel recently told Congress the deadline could be extended, but that hadn’t happened as of press time. Upon payment, a statutory 1-year deadline for project completion is triggered.

Competitive Carriers Association President/CEO Tim Donovan called July 17 “a dark day.”  

Donovan explained: “Because Congress has not yet fully funded the program, carriers are forced to undertake the endeavor of removing untrusted equipment with 40 percent of otherwise approved cost estimates to completely remove, replace, and destroy this untrusted equipment. Absent full funding, networks in many rural and sensitive parts of our country are at ever-increasing risk of breaking down and going dark.”

Because of the funding shortfall, Donovan said, “impacted carriers must make decisions to ‘rip’ but not ‘replace,’ including in areas where no other carrier provides service. This dire situation ignores our country’s national security and the connectivity of millions of Americans.”  

Carriers relied on assurances from Congress that full funding would be provided, Donovan notes. Some carriers “began the Rip and Replace process before the program was fully funded. While the program has strong bipartisan support, time is of the essence to provide the remaining $3.08 billion to secure America’s communications networks.”

The FCC recently told Congress that as of June 30, about 13 percent of reimbursement recipients have completed the work. One hundred twenty-six entities were approved for funding. The agency received a total of 5,531 applications from those approved entities. Because of the shortfall, the FCC had to pro-rate payments so each approved applicant received almost 40 percent of what they asked for.

Recipients still face four main challenges to completing the work: lack of funding; supply chain delays; labor shortages; and weather-related challenges.   

By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief

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