Mediacom to Meet Rip-and-Replace Deadline

Major ISP expects to meet its July 15 deadline to remove China-connected telecom gear.

Mediacom to Meet Rip-and-Replace Deadline
Mediacom CEO Rocco Commisso from N.Y. Cosmos

WASHINGTON, July 5, 2024 – A major cable broadband company expects to meet the deadline later this month to finish removal of China-tainted telecom gear from its network.

In a filing posted Friday, Mediacom Communications informed the Federal Communications Commission that it was just days away from completing the work to remove gear supplied by Huawei Technologies Co. or ZTE Corp.

“Mediacom has planned and scheduled its final shipment of covered equipment for pick-up and disposal on July 8, 2024. Mediacom is certain it will be fully completed with all removal, replacement and disposal tasks before its program deadline of July 15, 2024,” the company said.

Mediacom, based in New York, is the fifth-largest cable operator in the  U.S. It is a provider of gigabit broadband service to 1.3 million households and businesses across 22 states, primarily in the Midwest and Southeast. 

In 2019, Congress passed the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act, which provided the FCC with $1.9 billion to fund the equipment replacement program, which became known as the Rip and Replace program.

Congress acted to address a national security threat posed by the two leading China-based technology firms.

Mediacom said it requested $86 million but received just $38 million in Rip and Replace funding.

Faulting supply chain delays and lack of full funding, Mediacom told the FCC that it would not be able to meet the original April 15 deadline and sought a three-month extension until July 15. The FCC granted the extra time.

“Mediacom did experience equipment delivery delays that significantly impacted the original Mediacom timeline for completion of removal, replacement and disposal of its installed Huawei covered equipment,” Mediacom said. "Obviously, equipment could not be removed, services activated, subscribers migrated, and covered equipment disposed of until the replacement equipment was available.”

After the agency established the Rip and Replace program, it was inundated with funding requests totaling $5.6 billion, forcing the agency to ration funding.

In a July 1 report to Congress, the FCC said 14 out 122 Rip and Replace funding recipients had certified completion of their removal commitments. Six months ago, the FCC said just five applicants had finished the necessary work.

The FCC's report said nearly 40% of recipients have said they could not finish the replacement work without full funding, more than double the number that said so when the FCC submitted its last report in January. 

The FCC has granted 70 deadline extensions at least in part because of the lack of money, up from just 11 in January.

Extension requests have continued to arrive at the FCC, with Florida broadband provider Hotwire Communications asking the agency on July 1 to push its deadline back another six months to February 2025.

The agency has so far approved 23,830 reimbursement claims amounting to nearly $700 million. Applicants have received 39.5% of the approved cost of their reimbursement requests because of the funding shortfall.

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