Washington D.C. – RWA calls on Congress to quickly appropriate the necessary monies to fully fund the Federal Communications Commission’s Secure Networks Act Reimbursement Program now that the FCC has done its part in announcing the total amount of funding that needs to be appropriated, totaling $3.08 billion. Based on the current funding levels, applicants are only set to receive approximately 40 percent of their total funding allocation. Without full funding at the onset, many applicants will not be able to move forward with their removal and replacement process. This puts applicants, mainly rural carriers, in a precarious situation. Some will be forced to shut down their networks that serve many rural Americans. Others will be forced to request loans requiring interest payments, which are reimbursable under the Reimbursement Program, that will drive up the total amount of funds needed for the Reimbursement Program and needlessly waste taxpayer dollars.
“This is a good start but there are still some hard decisions to be made. Without assurances of full funding, the risks of moving forward could be devastating from several angles. As is, we will only be able to partially replace our unsecure network equipment. One option, I suppose, would be to replace what we can and try to keep the remaining untrusted network elements up and running for as long as possible but that fails to close all the national security holes in the communications network fabric. Another option would be to shut down the remaining unsecure elements but that would be a huge step backwards for the consumers and businesses that depend on our services and, arguably, would require significant adjustments for our entire operation, something that could ultimately lead to a complete shutdown. Given the national security concerns of it all that came into full public view over four years ago, it is a bit of an understatement to say that the initial funding allocations have been a long time coming. Now we are still standing here wondering where the remaining monies will come from and when they will be available to complete the mission while continuing to face the pressures of supporting the increasingly important broadband connectivity needs of our customers. The quantity and quality of coverage, including security, is just as important and urgent across my licensed footprint in west central Alabama as everywhere else in rural America and its past time to get on with the work of addressing it all,” stated John Nettles, President of RWA and the CEO of Pine Belt Cellular.
“Congress needs to act immediately to fill this funding gap. Congress should either move quickly and enact the Spectrum Innovation Act, H.R. 7624, which proposes to fully fund the Reimbursement Program with spectrum auction proceeds, or enact an emergency appropriation given the national security risks at stake,” noted Carri Bennet, General Counsel. “The U.S. cannot afford to wait any additional time for the appropriate funding. We must ensure not only that our networks are secure but also that our rural and small carriers can continue to provide broadband connections to rural Americans.”
RWA looks forward to Congressional action to move this necessary appropriation forward.