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Lack of Rip and Replace Funding Could Spell Trouble for BEAD Progress, Event Hears

Legislation to help close the rip and replace funding gap still awaits votes in Congress.



WASHINGTON, August 2, 2023 – The funding shortage in the rip and replace program, which aims to reimburse carriers to swap out threating Chinese equipment from their networks, if not immediately addressed by Congress, could hobble broadband deployment efforts from other federal grant programs, said panelists in a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event on Wednesday.

The deadline for providers to file their reimbursement applications has passed on July 15. Meanwhile, legislation to address the $3-billion funding gap — which was flagged by the Federal Communications Commission in 2022 — is slow to move through Congress.

Tim Donovan, CEO of the trade group Competitive Carrier Associations, said the funding shortfall would make providers reluctant to go through the whole process, instead opting for a ‘rip and not replace’ strategy.

“If you have to operate with the funds available, you start to look at what sites are a ‘rip and not replace’ site,” said Donovan. “Where am I shutting down service?”

It is not only bad news for local consumers, but also undermines the federal government’s broader attempts to increase broadband availability, he warned.

In places where these companies are the sole providers in town, they are often “the ones best prepared” to help broadband expansion programs succeed, Donovan said. However, because of the funding shortfall, they are bogged down by the maintenance of their existing network before even discussing the path forward.

“It would be a real travesty if at a moment when there’s such a bipartisan focus and more funds that have ever been put towards closing the digital divide, we see towers go dark because of the failure to fund this program,” said Donovan.

Armand Musey, president and founder of consulting firm Summit Ridge Group, added that some states even have a more “aggressive” deadline than the FCC for providers to replace the equipment. Carriers in those states may be barred from receiving state-based support, including the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment funding, unless they remove all Huawei and ZTE equipment from their networks.

Carri Bennet, general counsel of the industry group Rural Wireless Association, highlighted an additional layer of complexity. According to her, some companies borrowed funds from their affiliated sister companies to facilitate the process of replacing equipment in advance. However, this poses a challenge when the sister company is also involved in its own broadband deployment efforts, leading to financial constraints for both parties just to get fiber out, she said.

There have been multiple legislative attempts to address this financing shortfall. In May, the House Energy and Commerce Committee pushed forward a bill to direct spectrum auction money to replenish the rip and replace program. In April, several senators sponsored the Defend Our Network Acts to increase funding for the program from unused Covid funds. Both bills have gathered strong bipartisan support, but Congress has yet to pass the bills.

“It’s kind of ironic that there’s almost no opposition to this and it still won’t go through,” said Musey, noting that the longer Congress waits to act, the more it impacts coverage, emergency services, and access to healthcare, all of which the federal government is attempting to address through other grant programs.

As a stopgap measure, Bennet suggested that carriers become more involved by filing reports and concerns with the FCC in the hopes of catching the attention of members of Congress.

“I really hope that when Congress comes back in September, this can be a top item to move forward to limit the damage and keep the networks together as best as we can,” said Donovan.

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, August 2, 2023 – The Future of ‘Rip and Replace’

Amidst escalating concerns over cybersecurity, the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program, also known as the “rip and replace” program, is once again in the spotlight. The program, which aims to reimburse providers for removing Chinese equipment from their networks, is currently experiencing a funding shortfall of $3 billion. Despite numerous efforts from lawmakers and the Federal Communications Commission to push Congress for extra funding, the fate of the “rip and replace” program remains uncertain. How does this affect carrier’s efforts to replace the equipment, slated for completion by July next year? What lies behind Congress’s lack of action thus far? What does it mean for national security?


  • Carri Bennet, General Counsel, Rural Wireless Association have been invited
  • Tim Donovan, President and CEO of Competitive Carriers Association
  • Armand Musey, President and Founder of Summit Ridge Group
  • Ahmad Hathout (moderator), Managing Editor, Broadband Breakfast

Having launched several startups, including her own successful boutique communications and technology law firm prior to joining Womble Bond Dickinson, Carri Bennet uses her entrepreneurial spirit to make the seemingly impossible, achievable. Carri is exacting and persistent in achieving her clients’ goals. She is known as a spunky outspoken advocate for small rural carriers, having battled with regulators and large companies for more than 30 years to ensure that small rural businesses have a seat at the table and a strong voice in Washington, D.C.

Tim Donovan serves as President and CEO of Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), the nation’s leading association for competitive wireless providers and stakeholders across the United States. CCA’s members range from small, rural carriers serving fewer than 5,000 customers to regional and nationwide providers serving millions of customers, as well as vendors and suppliers that provide products and services throughout the wireless communications ecosystem. As the highest-ranking executive, Tim leads association advocacy and operations with government entities, press, membership, and the general public.

Armand Musey is President and Founder of Summit Ridge Group. He has over 15 years of equity research, investment banking, and consulting experience. Armand has completed dozens of financial valuation, strategic analysis, business development, corporate governance, and business plan creation assignments in the communications industry and has experience working on numerous financing and M&A transactions. His projects include leading Summit Ridge Group’s support of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust division’s review of the proposed T-Mobile/Sprint merger.

Ahmad Hathout, Managing Editor of Broadband Breakfast, has spent the last near-decade reporting on the Canadian telecommunications and media industries for leading publications. He is responsible for leading Broadband Breakfast’s hard news coverage, and is the author of the February 2023 Breakfast Club Report, What to Know About Build America, Buy America Provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

WATCH HERE, or on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

Quinn Nghiem studied communications and business at Villanova University, where she also participated in news reporting and video production for the university’s newspaper. Additionally, she covered economic and political issues for Vietnam Television, the national television broadcaster of Vietnam.

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BEAD Could Spur Private Investment in Network Expansion: Experts

BEAD efforts to stimulate private investment may hinge upon the availability of the Affordable Connectivity Program.



Connect Humanity's Brian Vo at the BEAD Implementation Summit

WASHINGTON, September 26, 2023 – Federal and state broadband grants can serve as catalysts for other sources of funding, experts said at the Broadband Breakfast BEAD Implementation Summit on Friday.

The $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program is providing an unprecedented amount in federal funds for expanding broadband infrastructure, but some states have estimated their allocations will fall short of the amount needed to get high-speed internet to all of their residents. 

For Steve Coran, an attorney at Lerman Senter and counsel for WISPA, the trade group for fixed wireless internet providers, previous funding programs – the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, known as RDOF, and the Connect America Fund, or CAF – are a source of hope. The certainty of federal funds, he said, has helped many of his clients secure private investments to serve rural areas.

Using that certainty “to generate additional capital investment is, I think, an underappreciated aspect of the RDOF and CAF programs,” he said.

Willie Heflin, managing director of investment firm Kinetic Ventures, said his experience investing in smaller internet service providers confirmed this. He pointed to a provider who received $187 million over 10 years from RDOF and was able to raise an additional $240 million from equity investors, including Kinetic Ventures.

“They were able to really build a company and provide services for people who weren’t getting it before,” he said.

Federally subsidized projects can also spur network expansion by making it cheaper and easier for communities to connect to nearby infrastructure, filling some of the holes left by funding programs, said Brian Vo, chief investment officer at Connect Humanity.

The extent to which BEAD projects will be able to stimulate private investment will hinge on the availability of affordability funds like the Affordable Connectivity Program, according to Blair Levin, an analyst at New Street Research and former executive director of the Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan.

“The single biggest delta for the economic models that will drive deployment in rural areas is whether the ACP is funded,” he said. “If it is, that makes the economics a lot easier. And if it’s not, it makes them a lot harder.”

The $14 billion program, established with the 2021 Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, provides monthly internet subsidies of $30 for low-income households and $75 for residents of Tribal lands. It is set to dry up as early as April 2024, with no clear path to refunding.

If you missed the BEAD Implementation Summit, sign up for Broadband Breakfast’s BEAD Starter Pack for $35/month (cancel anytime). You’ll get access to all the videos and each of the three Breakfast Club reports prepared for the BEAD Implementation Summit:

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State Broadband Officers Outline BEAD Implementation Efforts

Broadband heads from 5 states listed community outreach, mapping, and program deadlines as top priorities for BEAD.



State broadband officers from Arkansas, New Jersey, Maine and North Carolina at the BEAD Implementation Summit

WASHINGTON, September 25, 2023 – State broadband leaders addressed on Friday their key areas of focus as they look to allocate billions in Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment grants.

The conversation took place at the Broadband Breakfast BEAD Implementation Summit, along with panels of other federal grant program officials, service providers, and investors. The $42.5 billion program is getting under way, with states releasing their initial proposals for implementing it and hearing public comments. Those proposals are due to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration by December 27.

Community outreach

Broadband heads cited engaging with communities – especially around challenges to broadband map data and fostering internet adoption – as being essential to the success of the program.

In New Jersey, broadband office leader Valarry Bullard and her team organized a listening tour. They go to churches and community centers to explain how high-capacity internet can play a role in people’s lives and local programs, without, she emphasized, jargon or acronyms.

“You kind of meet people where they’re at, you know?” she said.

Arkansas broadband director Glen Howie said his team went to all 75 counties in the state to explain how mapping challenges will work and work with counties to set up local broadband committees.

“You go into a county and you tell folks they have an opportunity to challenge their internet availability, they get fired up,” he said.

Mapping and data

As part of their proposals to the NTIA, states are required to outline a process for accepting challenges to the Federal Communications Commission’s map of broadband coverage. That map, now on its third iteration, is based on coverage reported by internet service providers, which is widely considered to be overstated.

Those map challenges will be crucial, both for BEAD and other federal broadband programs, the panel said. 

“It’s the foundation of all of our programs. We spend a huge amount of time on mapping,” said Angie Bailey, North Carolina’s head broadband officer. “We can’t do this work without strong, location-level mapping.”

In Maine, Andrew Butcher and the Maine Connectivity Authority have been investing in broadband mapping efforts for years, he said. A parallel mapping process to the FCC’s has helped them allocate previous broadband funds and confirm coverage reported by providers.

“It has allowed us to have a data-driven conversation, as opposed to a policy of dibs,” he said. “We want to understand where there’s service and where there’s not.”


Deadlines, both for submitting initial proposals and awarding subgrants, are on broadband leaders’ minds. Those initial proposals are being submitted in two parts, and states have one year from the approval of part II to award their entire BEAD allocations.

That has Howie’s office in Arkansas worried about completing the challenge process, grant awards, and state rulemaking before the deadline

“The one year, arbitrary timeline that we’re all under at the moment is a huge concern for us,” he said.

Taking time on the initial proposal deadlines is helping states with smaller and newer broadband offices, like Bullard’s office in New Jersey, she said, learn from other states and prepare for the task ahead of them.

“Our plan will be submitted December 27, probably at 11:59,” she said. “It’s giving us some more time for that investment. We’re learning more about our counties… we’re connecting with our community anchor institutions.” 

If you missed the BEAD Implementation Summit, sign up for Broadband Breakfast’s BEAD Starter Pack for $35/month (cancel anytime). You’ll get access to all the videos and each of the three Breakfast Club reports prepared for the BEAD Implementation Summit:

Already a Broadband Breakfast Club member? Watch the videos!

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Michigan Island Asks FCC to Require Fiber for Some Carriers

Missing out on BEAD-funded fiber could ‘materially impair’ the Beaver Island’s ability to compete, a local committee argued.



Photo of Beaver Island from the Beaver Island Boat Company.

WASHINGTON, September 22, 2023 – A small Michigan island, Beaver Island, is asking the Federal Communications Commission to require broadband carriers receiving legacy federal funds to lay fiber-optic cable, or face competition from other providers.

The 55-square mile island is the largest in Lake Michigan and had a population of 616, according to the 2021 American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Beaver Island’s Joint Telecommunications Advisory Committee made the request in a September 18 filing to the FCC asking that the commission reconsider its adoption of the Enhanced Alternative Connect America Cost Model, or Enhanced ACAM. That model updates the previous allocation of federal money from the Universal Service Fund to internet providers in rural areas.

The model makes $13.5 billion available through 2028. It allows carriers to continue receiving funding if they upgrade or continue to provide service at 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) upload by 20 Mbps download – regardless of the technology they use to do so.

This, the island’s committee says, will prevent the island from being reached with fiber-optic cable, the highest capacity, most future-proof broadband technology. The Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program, established in 2021, allocates $42.5 billion for states to expand broadband infrastructure, but disqualifies areas already served by federal funding.

Michigan’s broadband office estimated its portion BEAD funding could provide fiber-based internet to every location in the state currently receiving less than 100 * 20 Mbps service. That covers all of Beaver Island. But the island expects its providers will take the Enhanced ACAM  money and update their older, copper-based equipment to meet speed requirements rather than compete at auction for BEAD grants to build fiber.

“Rather than assuring [sic] those areas affected by the Order will receive adequate service,” the filing reads, referring to the commission’s official adoption of the new model on September 1, “the Order instead all but guarantees they will receive a service that will quickly become outdated.”

The committee  said in its filing that in order for an Enhanced ACAM recipient to prevent an area from being eligible for BEAD funding, it should be required by the FCC to use fiber.

Providers have until September 29 to accept or deny Enhanced ACAM funding.

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