UPDATE The Rural Wireless Association, Inc. (RWA) and the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) hailed last week’s Senate passage of a measure to help reimburse small carriers that need to rip out and replace Huawei or ZTE gear from their networks. The Senate Thursday passed H.R. 4998, the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 and sent the measure to the president for his signature.
The bill prohibits the FCC’s Universal Service funding from subsidizing the acquisition or maintenance of telecom gear from untrusted suppliers.
It creates a program to reimburse telecommunications providers with fewer than two million customers. The measure also establishes an information sharing program for telecoms, especially small and rural operators, to obtain information regarding potential security risks and vulnerabilities to their networks.
The RWA called the measure an important first step in securing the communications network supply chain. It said the FCC’s rule change for its Universal Service program takes effect soon. “Without this crucial funding, rural carriers would lack the financial means to effectuate rapid replacement of the banned equipment,” said the RWA.
It called the effort made by Congress to ensure the continuous operation of rural networks while protecting national security a “valiant” effort. “Now with a funding mechanism almost in place, rural carriers can begin planning for the removal of banned Chinese equipment from their networks. RWA now awaits President Trump’s signature for official enactment of the legislation and the appropriation of funds to ensure a path forward,” the association said.
Competitive Carriers Association President/CEO Steve Berry called the passage “a significant milestone” to address security issues identified by Congress and the administration. “CCA members care deeply about network security, and this legislation provides much-needed guidance to all carriers, and importantly, resources to replace covered network elements.”
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