All Five Commissioners Recognize Service Disruption Risks to Rural Consumers and Need for Adequate Replacement Funding
Washington, D.C. – The Rural Wireless Association remains cautiously optimistic that the FCC’s recently-adopted Report and Order, Order, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will take a holistic approach to eliminating the threats posed by telecommunications equipment manufactured by “covered companies,” namely Huawei and ZTE. Specifically, RWA believes that: (1) the Report and Order will allow for a handful of impacted rural carriers, including RWA members, to maintain existing critical communications services so long as USF funding is not used to directly or indirectly fund Huawei or ZTE by purchasing additional equipment manufactured by these covered companies, or, contract for new services performed by these covered companies; and (2) the Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will have a fully-adequate funding program in place and approved by Congress before there is any physical removal of existing equipment. RWA is encouraged by some of the comments expressed earlier today by the FCC Chairman and the other four FCC Commissioners in today’s November Open Meeting. In particular, RWA applauds Commissioner Starks for spearheading the FCC’s effort on addressing the national security matter and identifying early on that a “find it, fix it, fund it” solution incorporating all three components is the only realistic solution. Commissioner Starks also held an important stakeholder workshop and recently released a report on this issue. Importantly, Commissioner Starks recognizes that the crucial “fix it” portion of the solution requires Congressional funding, and that America’s lawmakers need at least $2 billion to adequately “fund it” without risking a failure of rural communications systems. RWA also appreciates that Commissioner O’Rielly recognizes that rural wireless carriers are “innocent companies” in this important matter and that the Commission is likely “underestimating” the true financial impact of today’s decision on American consumers and small and rural carriers. Likewise, Commissioner Rosenworcel astutely noted that impacted carriers provide daily, mission-critical service in rural America and that our country needs to accelerate a workable reimbursement program. Finally, Chairman Pai and Commissioner Carr both acknowledge the wide-scale impact of this national security matter and the FCC’s response, and that the find it, fix it, and fund it solution proposed by Commissioner Starks is the most realistic. RWA is awaiting the FCC’s release of the final version of the entire Report and Order, Order, and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted by the full Commission before it can comment on any particular matter or component of the find it, fix it, and fund it solution.