FCC Report Shows Urgency to Pass Spectrum and National Security Act

July 9, 2024

Lack of Congressional action to fund “rip and replacement” of unsecure Chinese telecom equipment risks national security and network connection in rural communities where small providers lack funding  

Cantwell-led spectrum legislation funds Rip and Replace $3B shortfall

Today, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel called on Congress to provide support to small and rural broadband providers struggling to remove and replace unsecure Chinese network equipment after a new FCC report found 40% of Rip and Replace program participants lack funding to complete the work. Sen. Cantwell’s Spectrum and National Security Act would provide more than $3 billion to cover the Rip and Replace program shortfall. With most sites located in rural areas, this lack of funding disproportionally threatens service to rural communities.

“The FCC’s latest report to Congress shows small businesses and rural providers are increasingly struggling to remove and replace unsecure Chinese equipment from our network systems,” said Sen. Cantwell. “Removing Huawei and ZTE equipment from the networks of small and rural providers, some of which operate in close proximity to U.S. military facilities, is a critical national security priority. Congress must pass the Spectrum and National Security Act that funds this program’s shortfall, helps get small providers back on their feet and ensures rural communities stay connected.”

“While Congress provided $1.9 billion to operate the Rip and Replace program, this latest report by the FCC makes clear that this amount is not enough to secure our networks; particularly those from providers in small and rural areas,” said FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel. “We currently face a $3.08 billion shortfall and, unless we receive an additional appropriation, we can only provide forty cents on the dollar to those companies in reimbursement, which threatens our national security and risks the shutdown of rural networks. I want to thank Chair Cantwell for her efforts to fully reimburse participating carriers for removal, replacement and disposal of this problematic equipment. I look forward to continuing working with her and others to ensure we can secure our networks and send a strong signal to the world that we will not support insecure equipment in essential infrastructure.” 

According to the FCC report:

  • 12% of Rip and Replace participants have completed the process to remove unsecure network equipment.
  • Two-thirds of participants said that lack of funding is the main obstacle to removal—a 17% increase from the FCC’s January report.
  • Nearly half (40%) of participants said they won’t be able to comply with the mandate at all without additional funding—more than double recorded in the January report.
  • Less than three-quarters (69%) of participants report that they are on track to meet their originally submitted timelines for removing this equipment, down from 93% in the FCC’s January report. 
There are more than 6,000 sites with unsecure equipment across the United States—mostly in rural areas, and many are close to vital military assets. The unsecure equipment embedded in our telecommunications networks poses a threat to our wireless towers, power grids and sensitive national security communications. The Rip and Replace program was created by Congress in 2020 to reimburse small rural carriers for removing, replacing and properly disposing of unsecure equipment in their networks, but the program currently faces a more than $3 billion funding shortfall.