Washington, D.C. – The Rural Wireless Association, Inc. (RWA) calls on Congress to quickly appropriate the monies necessary to fully fund the Secure and Trusted Communications Reimbursement Program. The Reimbursement Program received 181 applications, seeking a total of $5.6 billion, for reimbursement of the costs of removal, replacement, and disposal of unsecure equipment and services in U.S. networks. This is nearly three times the $1.9 billion Congress appropriated for the program, some of which goes to funding the costs of administering the program. Most of RWA’s impacted members are Eligible Telecommunications Carriers and dependent on universal service subsidies which may no longer be used to fund Huawei and ZTE networks. “Funding only 33% of the program means RWA members will have to turn down cell sites and reduce coverage or in some instances shutter the businesses,” stated John Nettles, RWA President and CEO of Pine Belt Cellular in rural Alabama. “Turning down service and losing broadband coverage is the antithesis of everything that Congress, the FCC, and the Biden Administration have strived to do when it comes to broadband services,” Nettles added. “Given that these network replacements are being driven by national security concerns, full funding of the Program must be a priority,” he said.
Under the FCC’s rules, if the fund is oversubscribed, participants receive a pro rata share of the available funding. This means all participants in Category 1 will receive only one third of their requested funding. Those participants in Category 2, namely Lumen, will receive no funding.
Now that FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel has signaled to Congress that additional funding is needed, RWA asks Congress to quickly appropriate the funding necessary to fully fund this Reimbursement Program. This can be done through an emergency appropriation given the national security risks and the critical position that RWA operators play with respect to basic broadband connectivity for so many in Rural America. “The removal and replacement of unsecure equipment and services in U.S. networks is long overdue and much needed to protect our national security,” asserted Carri Bennet, RWA’s General Counsel. “It is incumbent on Congress and President Biden to act quickly so that impacted carriers have the assurance necessary to move forward with eradicating this ongoing threat while continuing its efforts to provide critical services to unserved and underserved households in rural America.”