WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and greater than 30 of their colleagues in a bipartisan letter to Senate management in help of closing the $3 billion funding shortfall impacting the Safe & Trusted Communications Networks Act’s Reimbursement Program. The shortfall leaves wi-fi networks—typically in rural areas—susceptible to espionage or disruption.
Attributable to safety considerations, in 2020 the FCC prohibited the acquisition of kit manufactured by Chinese language telecom firms Huawei and ZTE and in addition prohibited using FCC-administered funds to increase or keep networks with Huawei or ZTE gear already current.
The reimbursement program helps small telecommunications suppliers take away and substitute suspect Chinese language community gear manufactured by Huawei and ZTE. If the funding shortfall for this system will not be closed, the FCC will be unable to totally cowl the prices of eradicating, disposing, and changing suspect community gear which can go away U.S. wi-fi networks susceptible to espionage and disruption.
“The very best precedence class of telecommunications suppliers within the Reimbursement Program serve essentially the most rural areas of america the place wi-fi connectivity is a crucial lifeline to accessing telehealth providers, receiving emergency notifications, and taking part within the twenty first century economic system,” wrote the Senators.
The Safe and Trusted Communications Networks Act was enacted in 2020 and given a $1.9 billion appropriation for the Federal Communications Fee (FCC) to assist small community suppliers take away and substitute high-risk community gear. Whereas the preliminary $1.9 billion was based mostly on a voluntary survey of doable prices small community suppliers would incur, provide chain disruptions and extra program necessities (comparable to correct disposal of suspect gear) added to the general prices inside the Reimbursement Program.
“The bipartisan Senate help – thirty-four Senators! – in favor of a well-resourced Reimbursement Program sends a transparent message, and I applaud the letter signatories, particularly Senators Hickenlooper, Fischer, Peters, and Lummis, for his or her management on this vital nationwide safety concern. The funding shortfall should be addressed as quickly as doable to make sure eligible small and rural carriers are adequately reimbursed for prices related to eradicating, destroying, and changing affected gear. These carriers serve a few of the most rural and hard-to-reach locations throughout the nation and, with out ample reimbursements, their capacity to offer ongoing service to prospects is significantly jeopardized,” stated Steven Okay. Berry, president and CEO, Aggressive Carriers Affiliation (CCA).
Textual content of the letter is obtainable right here and under.
Pricey Chief Schumer and Chief McConnell,
We write to precise our help for the Federal Communication Fee’s (FCC) Reimbursement Program underneath the Safe and Trusted Communications Networks Act (Safe Networks Act). This system’s success is vital to sustaining community resiliency in Rural America and our nationwide safety. Because the Safe Networks Act was signed into regulation in 2020, Congress has appropriated $1.9 billion to help the FCC’s ongoing implementation of the Safe Networks Act and the institution of the Reimbursement Program to reimburse eligible small and rural telecommunications suppliers for prices related to eradicating, destroying, and changing “threats to the safety of our nation’s communications networks posed by sure communications gear suppliers.”
On February 4, 2022, the FCC introduced suppliers, utilizing steerage supplied by the FCC, had requested near $5.6 billion to take away and substitute gear of their networks—almost thrice greater than a earlier projection for the Reimbursement Program and creating a major monetary shortfall of $3.7 billion. On July 15, 2022, the FCC knowledgeable Congress that following an in depth overview of purposes submitted underneath the Reimbursement Program, the quantity of supplemental funding wanted to totally fund permitted price estimates is $3.08 billion. Pursuant to the Safe Networks Act, a funding shortfall requires the FCC concern a pro-rated reimbursement to eligible telecommunications suppliers—leading to solely 39.5% of funding for permitted prices allotted for reimbursement.
The very best precedence class of telecommunications suppliers within the Reimbursement Program serve essentially the most rural areas of america the place wi-fi connectivity is a crucial lifeline to accessing telehealth providers, receiving emergency notifications, and taking part within the twenty first century economic system. Attributable to important nationwide safety dangers to U.S. communications infrastructure, the FCC has already prohibited monies from the Common Service Fund (USF) from supporting the upkeep or growth of any wi-fi community that has coated gear from Huawei and ZTE current. Whereas these actions are obligatory, small rural wi-fi telecommunications suppliers rely on USF funds, and rural America faces a dangerous state of affairs. At the moment, rural wi-fi carriers might not keep, service, or improve networks with USF with Huawei and ZTE gear nonetheless current. We’re jeopardizing very important communications networks nationwide and our nationwide safety.
Recognizing the significance of a well-resourced Reimbursement Program to sustaining vital telecommunications service in rural communities, we’re dedicated to working with you on legislative options to promptly present the monetary assets essential to mitigate nationwide safety vulnerabilities emanating from community gear manufactured by untrusted firms comparable to Huawei Applied sciences and ZTE Company.
Thanks on your consideration to this pressing matter. We stay up for working with you to discover a swift resolution.