Rural Wireless Carriers Ask Congress to Speed “Rip & Replace” Money

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The Rural Wireless Association wrote to the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, and Commerce Committees, asking lawmakers to appropriate money as quickly as possible for the implementation of the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act’s (Secure Networks Act) reimbursement program. The RWA would like the funds to be included in the upcoming COVID-19 relief package, if possible.

The measure, enacted on March 12, represents the first step in rural carriers’ attempts to secure the funding necessary to replace their Huawei and ZTE equipment, according to the association. The U.S. deemed Huawei and ZTE gear a security risk and wants carriers to remove it from current networks and replace it with trusted gear.

Without the funds, rural wireless carriers “lack sufficient resources” to do this as well as maintain their critical network infrastructure, says RWA. “Our members have experienced significant increases in network traffic over the past few months and still remain committed to keeping Americans connected. They have even gone beyond the FCC’s request in its Keep Americans Connected Pledge to ensure that those in their communities have broadband access. As a result, these rural carriers’ resources are thin and these carriers are in need of assurances that funding will soon be available for the inevitable replacement of their unsecure equipment and services,” writes the RWA.

The group also points out the work required to rip and replace the untrusted gear will provide jobs at a time when many have lost their employment due to the pandemic. “The replacement of the covered equipment and services will require tower technicians, construction crews, and others to both remove the unsecure equipment and deploy trusted equipment and services. Replacement and removal of the equipment will take many years once funds are authorized and will thus provide needed jobs for an extended time period,” says RWA.

The association notes that other organizations, such as CCA, NTCA, and WIA, too, asked for the quick appropriation of funds.

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