The FCC has told Congress that applications to The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program have generated requests totaling about $5.6 billion – far more than the allocated funding. The program was established to reimburse providers with 10 million or fewer customers who must remove Huawei Technologies Company and ZTE equipment.
The FCC prohibits carriers from using Universal Service Fund (USF) money to purchase equipment and services from Huawei and ZTE because they are deemed a threat due to their relationship with the Chinese government.
A statement from FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel says that “over 181” applications have been received. That means that the average request is about $31 million. The challenge is that the “rip and replace” program was allotted only about one-third of the total requested – almost $1.9 billion – in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
The filing window for the program — which offers reimbursement for “reasonable expenses incurred in the removal, replacement, and disposal” of equipment and services obtained from the two companies on or before June 30, 2020 — began on Oct. 29, 2021. It initially was set to close on January 14 but was extended to January 28.
Rosenworcel suggested that steps will be taken to address the shortfall. “While we have more work to do to review these applications, I look forward to working with Congress to ensure that there is enough funding available for this program to advance Congress’s security goals and ensure that the U.S. will continue to lead the way on 5G security,” Rosenworcel said in the statement about the FCC Huawei and ZTE replacement program.
In a statement last November, Rosenworcel pointed out that the transition offered an opportunity for providers to introduce “promising and innovative alternatives” into their platforms.