Washington, D.C. – RWA continues to be frustrated by the lack of urgency in implementing the Federal Communications Commission’s Secure Networks Act Reimbursement Program. This slow-moving effort, demonstrated by the Report submitted by the FCC to Congress, has left Reimbursement Program participants, and in particular rural carriers, in a bind as they attempt to move forward through an overly burdensome administrative process with extremely limited funds. It is time that both Congress, by allocating full funding, and the FCC, in quickly administering the program, take on their responsibility to assist Reimbursement Program participants in ridding their communications networks of unsecured equipment and services that continue to pose a national security threat.
As noted in the Report, roughly half of recipients are struggling with the lack of funding and securing replacement equipment. Through approximately five months, the FCC has only approved reimbursement claims of about $41 million of the $1.85 billion budget. This demonstrated slow progress comes to no surprise to RWA members who have been frustrated by the multiple technical glitches in the portal as well as the overly time-consuming process of approving invoices and budget revisions. One RWA member has already shared that some of its pending invoices have gone over 100 days without any feedback from the Fund Administrator making it practically impossible to continue, let alone meet the one-year completion deadline.
While RWA has expressed its appreciation of the FCC’s and Fund Administrator’s efforts to limit waste, fraud, and abuse, the seemingly letter-perfect standard for processing invoices has created an imbalance between the processing of invoices and Congress’ mandated one-year completion deadline.
It is time for the FCC to work quickly with the Fund Administrator to resolve these processing issues and develop a more streamlined process. That coupled with an appropriation from Congress, to fully fund this program, would go a long way in alleviating the issues noted in the most recently submitted status updates made by Reimbursement Program participants.
RWA looks forward to swift FCC and Congressional action to fully fund the Reimbursement Program and streamline the processing of invoices.