Press

WASHINGTON, DC. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) recently led more than 30 of her colleagues in a bipartisan letter highlighting the importance of addressing a funding shortfall with the Secure & Trusted Communications Networks Act’s Reimbursement Program, which is also known as “Rip & Replace.” The program’s $3 billion shortfall leaves wireless networks — often in rural areas — vulnerable to espionage or disruption.

“The highest priority class of telecommunications providers in the Reimbursement Program serve the most rural areas of the United States where wireless connectivity is a vital lifeline to accessing telehealth services, receiving emergency notifications, and participating in the 21st century economy,” wrote the senators. 

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Reimbursement Program specifically helps small telecommunications providers remove and replace suspect Chinese network equipment manufactured by Huawei and ZTE – an effort also known as “rip and replace.”  If the funding shortfall for the program is not closed, the FCC will not be able to fully cover the costs of removing, disposing, and replacing suspect network equipment, which will leave U.S. wireless networks vulnerable.

The bipartisan Senate support – thirty-four Senators! – in favor of a well-resourced Reimbursement Program sends a clear message, and I applaud the letter signatories, especially Senators Hickenlooper, Fischer, Peters, and Lummis, for their leadership on this critical national security issue. The funding shortfall must be addressed as soon as possible to ensure eligible small and rural carriers are adequately reimbursed for costs associated with removing, destroying, and replacing affected equipment. These carriers serve some of the most rural and hard-to-reach places across the country and, without adequate reimbursements, their ability to provide ongoing service to customers is seriously jeopardized,” said Steven K. Berry, president and CEO, Competitive Carriers Association (CCA).

Text of the full letter is available HERE.

Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-Co.), Gary Peters, and Cynthis Lummis also led the letter.

Background:

Due to security concerns, in 2020 the FCC prohibited the purchase of equipment manufactured by Chinese telecom companies Huawei and ZTE and also prohibited the use of FCC-administered funds to expand or maintain networks with Huawei or ZTE equipment already present.

The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act was enacted in 2020 and given a $1.9 billion appropriation for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to help small network providers remove and replace high-risk network equipment. While the initial $1.9 billion was based on a voluntary survey of possible costs small network providers would incur, supply chain disruptions and additional program requirements (such as proper disposal of suspect equipment) added to the overall costs within the Reimbursement Program.

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