Several industry trade groups urged House and Senate leaders to appropriate funding to implement the so-called “rip and replace” action to remove untrusted gear from communications networks. The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act (Public Law 116-124), passed Congress and was signed into law March 12.
A number of wireless and wireline operators in the U.S. deployed equipment from Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE. Now, the U.S. government has determined that gear poses an unacceptable risk to U.S. national security. The new law creates a program designed to reimburse operators with fewer than two million customers for the cost of removing such equipment and replacing it.
But without money, small operators can’t do that, according to groups such as the Competitive Carriers Association, NTCA-the Rural Broadband Association, Advocates for Rural Broadband and WIA.
In a letter to congressional leaders, they cite FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s request for funding for this program through a “a 5G supply chain fund” earlier this year. “Chairman Pai’s request was to ‘[s]timulate U.S. telecom companies to replace Huawei & ZTE equipment & service in their networks,’ and seeks $2 billion for the program and $5 million for administrative costs,” state the associations.
“The U.S. government has determined that this equipment poses national security risks, yet until funding is available, operators with this equipment do not have the financial resources to initiate the process to remove and replace it,” they say. “Operators who through no fault of their own previously deployed Huawei and ZTE equipment are paralyzed.”
They also note that the rip and replace work will create jobs for tower technicians and field construction crews to remove existing equipment and deploy new networks in rural areas.