The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) has asked the FCC to address concerns of some of the association’s small rural wireless provider members regarding the agency’s rip & replace program.
That program is designed to reimburse the providers for the cost of replacing equipment from Chinese manufacturers – primarily Huawei – whose equipment has been deemed to pose a security risk to U.S. communications infrastructure.
One of the providers’ concerns is that funding allocated for the program is insufficient to cover replacement costs.
According to a letter sent by CCA to the FCC, “There are significant consumer, competitive and national security interests at stake if the reimbursement program must continue with only 39.5% of its funding available.”
CCA also notes that “the fund administrator recently informed participants that any additional invoices exceeding a participant’s current 39.5% allocation will not be reviewed until the FCC receives additional funding.”
According to CCA, this puts carriers in a “perilous” position. Because many of the carriers are small operators without the financial resources to complete the rip & replace process without government funding, “they are forced to prioritize certain projects and abandon others, unsure of whether they will be addressed,” CCA said.
CCA asks the FCC to review invoices exceeding the 39.5% threshold for tentative approval so that the invoices can be quickly processed when additional funding becomes available.
CCA Rip & Replace Concerns
The letter also notes that several CCA members participating in the reimbursement program have experienced excessively long approval times for invoices.
“When the reimbursement rate is materially slower than the rate [at which] applicants incur costs, it jeopardizes further progress on projects,” CCA said. The association goes on to say that “the impact of reimbursement delay is exacerbated by the current high-interest rate environment and [because] financing costs (when financing is available) are not eligible for reimbursement.”
Accordingly, CCA asks the FCC to take steps to accelerate invoice processing.
CCA also asks the FCC to streamline the modification process, as some members have experienced long delays in approvals for modifications.
“Modification approval delays can be particularly challenging for participants because submitting a modification request effectively ‘locks’ a participant’s application, including aspects of the application unrelated to the modification,” CCA said.