Washington, D.C. – RWA, in conjunction with seven other communications trade associations, has implored Congress, in a letter to leadership, to quickly appropriate the necessary monies to fully fund the Federal Communications Commission’s Secure Networks Act Reimbursement Program. Based on the current funding levels, applicants are only set to receive approximately 40 percent of their total funding allocation. This has left many program participants, especially small rural providers, in the untenable situation of a partial or complete shutdown of service given that they have insufficient funds to remove and replace their unsecure equipment and are prohibited from servicing or upgrading their existing Huawei and ZTE networks that subscribers currently rely on, in the interim.
In good faith, many carriers have already begun their “rip and replace” process given the national security concerns at stake. Other carriers have not moved forward because to do so will jeopardize the service they currently provide, including emergency and E911 services relied on by subscribers of Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile who travel through these rural areas and roam on these networks. RWA’s impacted members only ask that Congress uphold its end of the bargain and fully fund the Reimbursement Program so that these networks do not end up being partially or completely shut down.
“Congress mandated an accelerated timeline to rid our communications networks of this unsecure equipment,” noted Carri Bennet, General Counsel. “Affected carriers ask for a similar accelerated appropriation of funds so that they can comply with the directives from Congress and the FCC. Continuing to underfund the Reimbursement Program adds to the costs of the Reimbursement Program by forcing carriers to borrow money to finish what they started, provided a bank will even loan to carriers given all this uncertainty,” she added. “With interest rates high, the cost of borrowing funds — which is a reimbursable cost — will only further drive up the amount needed for the Reimbursement Program.” “Time is money and the foot dragging by Congress is a needless waste of taxpayer dollars, but more importantly the funding delay leaves the security of our networks exposed to nefarious activity, especially around our military bases and airports.”