Coalition Wants Funds for Rip and Replace, Advertising Universal Service, Washington State Broadband

A coalition of telecom associations are urging Congress to appropriate money to fund the Rip and Replace program.

Coalition Wants Funds for Rip and Replace, Advertising Universal Service, Washington State Broadband
Photo of Shirley Bloomfield from NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association.

November 8, 2023 – A coalition of telecom associations urged Congress in a letter Tuesday to include additional funding in spending legislation for a Federal Communications Commission program that reimburses carriers for replacing Chinese equipment in their networks.

The coalition, which includes groups like the Telecommunications Industry Association and the Competitive Carriers Association, explained in the letter that the additional funding for the “Rip and Replace” program is critical to maintain connectivity across the country, especially in rural areas.

President Joe Biden asked Congress late last month to appropriate $3.1 billion to supplement the program, which was originally appropriated $1.9 billion in funding from Congress.

However, the FCC has said providers would require $4.98 billion to complete their work.

Previously, providers have had to delay changing out their equipment because of cost related impediments, despite needing to do so on a deadline administered by the FCC.

“While this relief was necessary, additional time without sufficient funding undermines the successful completion of the Reimbursement Program,” read the letter in reference to deadline extensions.

NTCA announces USF ad campaign

NTCA, the Rural Broadband Association, announced Monday that it will be launching a new ad campaign titled “Broadband Built to Last”, which will provide educational material to policymakers on the importance of sustaining the Universal Service Fund.

The program that is funded by the service providers and goes toward basic telecommunications infrastructure across the country has been reliant on declining voice service revenues.

NTCA’s campaign will aim to promote the importance of the USF and provide information to constituents about the important role it plays in supporting rural broadband initiatives.

“The Universal Service Fund plays a unique role in helping ensure rural Americans can continue to have reliable access to communications services at rates comparable to urban areas,” said NTCA CEO Shirley Bloomfield.

Observers have urged the FCC and Congress to act on broadening the USF’s base, including looking into including Big Tech and broadband revenues.

Washington state accepting rural broadband applications

Washington State’s Public Works Board announced Monday it is now accepting applications for broadband projects to receive funding from their $15.8 million allocated for deployment.

Up to $10,950,072 will be distributed in the form of a loan, while $4,844,547 will be distributed as grant money.

While the maximum funding amount to be awarded is $2 million, the the board will consider allocating up to $5 million in funding to projects set to deploy in rural areas or Indian country.

The pre-application cycle opened on November 6 and will run until January 4, 2024, after which point all final applications may be submitted between February 9, 2024 and March 22nd, 2024. Funding recipients will be notified in May of 2024.

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