WASHINGTON, February 1, 2024 – House Communications and Technology Subcommittee ranking member Doris Matsui, D-California, released on Wednesday new state-level data from the Federal Communications Commission’s $1.9-billion rip and replace program, showing thousands of network sites that still use Chinese equipment.
The data show the FCC has so far approved reimbursements for removing insecure network equipment at more than 6,300 sites across the country. The agency has paid out $429 million of the $5 billion in approved applications.
“The data I requested from the FCC is crystal clear: there is an alarming amount of vulnerable gear in American telecommunications networks affecting nearly every single state in the country,” Matsui said in a statement.
Nevada had the most project sites with 657, followed by Colorado with 576 and New York with 494. Another 15 states have more than 100 approved rip and replace project sites.
The 2019 Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act directed the commission to reimburse providers for replacing network equipment from Huawei, ZTE, and other Chinese companies deemed to be national security risks. The $1.9 billion the program was allocated is roughly $3 billion short of requests made to the FCC.
President Joe Biden asked Congress for that extra cash in a domestic funding request, joining widespread calls from lawmakers, providers, and the FCC. A bill to top up the fund was introduced in the Senate last year, but has since stalled. Lawmakers have also proposed using money from spectrum auctions to pay for the program. The FCC’s authority to auction off and issue licenses for spectrum bands expired in March.
The gap in funding has made for slow going, especially for small providers. An FCC report to Congress last month said only five companies have completed their replacements, citing cost in addition to supply chain and labor issues.
“We’re providing 40 cents on the dollar to a lot of small and rural carriers,” the FCC chairwoman told lawmakers at an oversight hearing in November. “They need more funds to get the job done.”