Rosenworcel Urges Congress to Bolster 'Rip and Replace' With $3 Billion

The program received a $1.9 billion allocation, but the FCC has said it will cost $4.98 billion.

Rosenworcel Urges Congress to Bolster 'Rip and Replace' With $3 Billion
Photo by Zachary Keimig used with permission

WASHINGTON May 3, 2024 — Federal Communications Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rowenworcel on Thursday urged Congress to authorize an additional $3 billion in government money in order to assist U.S. operators in removing Huawei and ZTE equipment from their telecommunications networks.

In a letter to Senate Commerce Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell D-Washington, Rosenworcel said that almost 40% of the rip and replace program participants claimed they couldn't finish the gear change out without further government assistance.

A law that was passed by Congress in 2019 mandated that network equipment that was thought to be a threat to national security be removed from operators that served less than 10 million users and had received government subsidies.

The FCC’s Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program – often called the “Rip and Replace” program – received a $1.9 billion allocation. However the agency has consistently indicated that the expected cost to replace the equipment is around $4.98 billion.

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According to the statute, the FCC must first provide funding to providers with fewer than two million users. In her letter, Rosenworcel clarified that those applicants will only receive prorated help equal to “only 39.5% of reasonable costs."

Rosenworcel highlighted the impact the legislation could potentially have on rural areas. 

The letter states, “in many rural and remote areas of the country where they may be the only mobile broadband service provider, a shutdown of all or part of their networks could eliminate the only provider in some regions.”

In addition, the letter reads, ““to fully remove, replace, and dispose of its covered equipment and services would raise national security concerns by leaving insecure equipment and services in our networks.”

The letter further states that by leaving unsafe equipment and services in our networks, service providers will be unable "to fully remove, replace, and dispose of its covered equipment and services, raising national security concerns."

Congress has not yet granted the $3.1 billion in additional money that the Biden administration requested in October 2023. 

Several have commented on the supposedly inadequate funding of the rip and replace program, arguing that the current iteration of the initiative will fail. In March, Congress proposed a $3 billion infusion into the rip and replace program, citing concerns small and mid-sized carriers might have to cut wireless services. 

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