CCA, RWA praise Senate passage of ‘rip and replace’ bill

The organizations that represent the carriers most likely to be ripping out and replacing Huawei network gear are cheering the Senate’s passage of the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act.

The Senate voted on Thursday to pass the Secure Trusted Telecommunications Networks Act, which requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish a $1 billion fund to help smaller telecom providers to rip out and replace equipment from companies deemed a national security threat, such as Huawei and ZTE.

The bill passed the House in December 2019 and it’s now headed to the President's desk, where it’s expected to be signed into law. Primary sponsors were Senators Frank Pallone Jr. (D-New Jersey), Greg Walden (R-Oregon) and Representatives Doris Matsui (D-California) and Brett Guthrie (R-Kentucky). The Senate Commerce Committee chaired by Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) has jurisdiction over the bill.

“I commend the Senate for passing the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act,” said Steve Berry, CCA president and CEO, in a statement. “CCA members care deeply about network security, and this legislation provides much-needed guidance to all carriers, and importantly, resources to replace covered network elements."

Berry said it’s a significant milestone to address security issues identified by Congress and the Administration. “I thank the Senate for its action to send this bill to the President’s desk for enactment, and commend the leadership of Chairman Pallone, Chairman Wicker, and several other leading members of Congress to advance this important legislation,” he added.

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The Rural Wireless Association (RWA) said it’s pleased that Congress passed the measure that helps small rural carriers with fewer than 2 million subscribers. “The passage of this legislation comes at a critical time. Without this crucial funding, rural carriers would lack the financial means to effectuate rapid replacement of the banned equipment,” RWA said in its statement.

Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) CEO David Stehlin said the passage of the act was a critical step in ensuring the integrity of the telecommunications supply chain as it heads into the 5G era.  “By passing the Act, Congress is also sending a clear signal to the global industry that the U.S. will continue to lead the way on 5G security,” he said.

“TIA will continue to expedite its Supply Chain Security program which is developing industry-driven standards, measurements, and benchmarking that form a consistent, common, and accepted set of global requirements that ensure the integrity of the ICT supply chain and enable new technologies to reach their potential.” 

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The FCC already voted unanimously in November to ban the use of Universal Service Fund (USF) dollars to purchase telecom equipment and services from vendors that pose risks to national security, specifically Huawei and ZTE. That followed calls that carriers rip out and replace any gear that was supplied by the Chinese vendors.

To mitigate the impact, in particularly on small, rural carriers, the FCC proposed a reimbursement program to offset the transition costs. This week, the agency started collecting information from telecom carriers on the use of Huawei and ZTE equipment and services in their networks, initiating the process designed to aid the reimbursement program.