Concern about Rip and Replace, China Telecom Appeals Expulsion, Clarity on Student Privacy

Rural Wireless Association is concerned rip and replace will not compensate for costs related to supply chain and labor issues.

Concern about Rip and Replace, China Telecom Appeals Expulsion, Clarity on Student Privacy
Jessica Rosenworcel, a commissioner with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), speaks at INTX: The Internet & Television Expo in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, May 6, 2015. The event, formerly known as the The Cable Show, has been the reimagined for doing business in the digital economy by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA). Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg *** Local Caption *** Jessica Rosenworcel

November 9, 2021 – The Rural Wireless Association said in a submission to the FCC Monday that it is concerned with the ability of small and rural carriers to comply with replacing unsecure telecom equipment even as workforce and semiconductor shortages persist.

In July, the agency voted in favor of ripping and replacing equipment from Chinese manufacturers, including ZTE and Huawei, due to national security concerns and as a result of the Secure Networks Act. It also announced details of the reimbursement process that will compensate those carriers for having to follow through on the order.

But in a submission to the Commerce Department last week and then to the FCC on Monday, the RWA said the labor shortage and the global supply chain crisis, which has claimed shortages in semiconductors, will increase the cost to comply with the order. It is asking for the FCC, Commerce, and Homeland Security to work together to lobby Congress to ensure the reimbursement program covers those “rising costs associated with the supply chain and labor shortages couple with the short time line for completing the Reimbursement Program.

“Alternatively, RWA asks that the Commission issue general extensions to the one-year reimbursement and replacement term to give participants more time, which will in turn lower costs and allow the semiconductor and workforce shortages to be resolved,” it added.

The current reimbursement window closes on January 14, 2022.

China Telecom appeals ban

China Telecom, which was told by the Federal Communications Commission earlier this month that it is having its business authorizations revoked due to national security concerns, is appealing the decision because it claims it did not get a due hearing on the matter.

Filed Friday, the submission challenges the FCC’s vote last month to revoke the operating authorizations of the company’s U.S. subsidiary, effectively ending its ability to provide services in the country, allegedly because the company is at the whim of the Chinese government.

“The Commission’s failure to designate the Section 214 revocation and termination proceedings for a hearing prior to issuance of the Order tramples on [China Telecom Americas’] constitutionally protected property rights, violating the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Commission’s own precedent governing Section 214 authorization revocations proceedings,” the submission said.

The company added that if the agency doesn’t suspend the order, the company will suffer “massive irreparable harm” from having to “cease large segments of its operations.”

The process to revoke China Telecom’s authorizations began under the Donald Trump administration. In December 2020, the company’s written objections to the FCC commencing proceedings to revoke the authorizations were denied. In March 2021, it said it had asked the FCC to designate the matter for an evidentiary hearing before a neutral administration law judge, which it did not get.

FCC asked to clarify student privacy in schools

The Center for Democracy and Technology asked FCC officials last week to clarify legislation that it says is forcing schools to install invasive software to monitor students’ activity.

The organization brought forth the concerns in a call with FCC officials, which was laid out in a November 3 submission, that the implementation of this software is a “result of an overboard interpretation of the ‘monitoring’ provision” of the Children’s Internet Protection Act.

The legislation requires schools receiving funds from the E-rate broadband subsidy program to enforce a “policy of Internet safety for minors that includes monitoring the online activities of minors,” the CDT said, adding such “invasive surveillance” is not required to abide by the law.

It said this software monitoring occurs outside school hours, dampens student expression, and disproportionately affects low-income students.

“Student activity monitoring software permits schools unprecedented glimpses into students’ lives, from measuring engagement in online learning to analyzing students’ browsing habits and scanning their messages and documents,” the submission said.

“Overbroad, systematic monitoring of online activity can reveal sensitive information about students’ personal lives, such as their sexual orientation, or cause a chilling effect on their free expression, political organizing, or discussion of sensitive issues such as mental health,” it added.

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