UPDATE FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks praised the Biden Administration for including key telecommunications and national security policies in its supplemental funding request to Congress. The request included $6 billion to continue the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and just over $3 billion to fully fund the FCC’s effort to reimburse small rural carriers for removing and replacing untrusted Huawei and ZTE gear from their networks.
Without more money, ACP is due to sunset next spring. Starks called funding ACP “an essential national priority.” He noted that 21.4 million households get online through the program for low-income households.
“Continuing the program would ensure that those households are not left behind and that we continue to make progress in connecting every last American to high-speed internet,” said Starks. “Importantly, it also would strengthen rural deployment efforts through programs like the BEAD by reducing the subsidy needed to reach unserved and underserved locations.”
Starks said the so-called “Rip & Replace” program is an “urgent national security” priority. Starks quoted from an Op Ed that he co-wrote with Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, in April: “fully funding the program would help us eradicate insecure Chinese equipment and services from our networks, including facilities near our military bases. And it would do so without forcing rural communities into the impossible and deeply unfair position of choosing between insecure services ripe for espionage and surveillance or no service at all.”
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief