SI Wireless Complains of Rip and Replace Payment Delay

The company said it has received just $360,000 out of the $16 million requested.

SI Wireless Complains of Rip and Replace Payment Delay
Photomontage of Huawei logo from SkyNews

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2023 – Wireless service provider SI Wireless has complained to the Federal Communications Commission that payments to it for replacing equipment deemed a national security risk are coming too slow for it to complete work mandated by Congress.

In a Thursday letter recapping an earlier meeting, the company said of the 118 invoices filed to the Reimbursement Program Fund Administrator, only 11 – representing $360,000 – have been paid. It said the total amount requested is over $16 million, with 65 invoices totaling roughly $11 million having been outstanding for over 170 days and the oldest being more than 215 days.

Because the company’s first payment was released on November 23, 2022, it is on a timer to get the work done by the exact same date this year.

“SI Wireless warned that a slew of initial reimbursement requests will be coming from Reimbursement Program participants in July and that the delays being experienced now by participants, up to 6 months, will be increased significantly if changes are not made to improve the processing of modifications and reimbursement requests,” the company said in the letter.

The company urged the commission to press the administrator to separate the processing of the funds unrelated to modified applications made due to shortfalls in program funding.

“This has made it impossible for SI Wireless to pay its vendors – many of whom have been waiting to receive payments for over 200 days,” the letter said.

“SI Wireless needs to pay its vendors who have worked diligently to remove and destroy its Huawei equipment,” it added. “It would also like to place orders for new equipment for the new network as soon as possible so that it can attempt to complete the work by its November 2023 completion deadline.”

The commission’s Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program has about $1.9 billion to scatter to dozens of providers to “rip and replace” equipment from problematic companies. Earlier this year, the commission reported that nearly half of firms applying for program funds are struggling with funding. Companies have also complained about not even being able to get loans to finance the replacements.

The commission and industry groups have complained about a lack of funding for a program that is said to be roughly $3 billion short of requested funds. Senator Mark Warner, D-VA, said last month that he will push to make rip and replace funding a priority in Congress.

Early last month, the FCC reported that 79 communications providers last year reported purchasing, renting, leasing or getting equipment from a blacklist of companies on the national security risk list.

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