Starks on Insecure Telecom Gear: “Find It. Fix It. Fund It.”

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FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks will convene a workshop at the FCC next Thursday, June 27, focused on telecommunications network security. He’ll gather stakeholders — including carriers, manufacturers, academics, and trade associations — to start crafting and developing a practical path forward.

“Specifically, I anticipate digging into what it will take to find the insecure equipment, fix the problem, and help fund the process. 

Find it. Fix it. Fund it,” he told members of the Federal Communications Bar Association on Wednesday.

Once equipment that’s determined to be a threat is found in a carrier’s communications network, “We need to transition carriers away from insecure equipment as rapidly as possible,” said Starks. He explained: “A ‘rip and replace’ approach may be necessary; if so, we must minimize disruption to consumers. That’s going to take planning and time, which is why we need to start as soon as possible to restore the security of our networks.”

Starks doesn’t expect carriers to carry the financial burden of equipment replacement alone. Many of the carriers who purchased this equipment are small or operate in rural areas and may not be able to cover the costs of replacement without financial support, he noted.

While most carriers abide by high security standards, “our original low-security environment now appears more nostalgic than practical. Bad actors now have ready access to network credentials that were once limited to trusted entities,” said Starks.

Congress, the FCC and the Administration have all taken steps to prohibit or restrict insecure equipment. The FCC has a pending rulemaking that considers whether to prohibit Universal Service Fund support for insecure telecommunications equipment from Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE.

June 20, 2019

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