FCC sets date to begin reimbursement for Huawei rip and replace program

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set October 29 as the date companies can start applying for reimbursement funds for ripping and replacing Huawei and ZTE equipment from their networks. And it expanded the pool of companies that can get reimbursed.

Originally, the pool of eligible network operators was limited to companies with up to 2 million customers. But yesterday, the FCC adopted an order to include service providers with up to 10 million subscribers.

In late December 2020, $1.895 billion was appropriated to carry out the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019. The funding was earmarked as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

In conjunction with this legislation, the FCC has created a reimbursement program to compensate service providers for costs incurred in removing, replacing and disposing of communications equipment that poses an unacceptable risk to national security.

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The funding does not specify a preference for wireless networks or wired networks.

In February, Michael Romano, SVP for industry affairs and business development at NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, said, “While some reports seem to indicate that covered equipment may be more prevalent in wireless networks, the concerns related to national security and the law establishing a rip-and-replace framework do not distinguish between wireless and wired technologies.”

The FCC’s reimbursement rules require that equipment and services from Huawei and ZTE must have been obtained by June 30, 2020, in order to be eligible for reimbursement.

The agency has released a draft catalog prepared by Widelity, itemizing expenses and suggesting replacements for insecure equipment. And it has also selected Ernst & Young as the administrator to run the reimbursement program, which is set to begin on October 29.

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If demand for reimbursement funds exceeds the $1.895 billion, the FCC has adopted a prioritization scheme provided for in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.

In a statement yesterday, Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said, “The FCC will soon undertake what is perhaps the most significant federally funded effort to rebuild and secure commercial communications networks nationwide. This means we will evaluate network after network, base station after base station, and router after router until we have rooted out equipment that could undermine our national security.”