The FCC is going to meet its self-imposed target date to begin accepting applications for the Rip & Replace reimbursement program. On Monday, the agency said the application filing window will open October 29, at 12:00 a.m. ET. Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said earlier this year that was the target date, Inside Towers reported.
The Commission established the $1.9 billion program to reimburse providers of advanced communications services with ten million or fewer customers for costs incurred to remove, replace and dispose of covered communications equipment or services from their networks that pose a national security risk. Huawei or ZTE gear or services that were purchased on or before June 30, 2020 are covered in the program.
To participate in the reimbursement program, eligible providers must file an FCC Form 5640 Application Request for Funding Allocation, using the dedicated online application filing portal, which will be made available on the Commission’s dedicated supply chain webpage. Once the filing window closes on January 14, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. ET, the reimbursement program fund administrator will review the applications.
Based on whether the reimbursement request is complete, the applicant is eligible for the reimbursement program, and the “reasonableness” of the cost estimates provided, the agency will either grant or deny the application. Those whose applications are found to be deficient will have 15 days to fix their paperwork before their reimbursement request is denied.
Eligible program participants will be told their monetary allocation at the end of the application review period. The agency anticipates that to be early in the second quarter of 2022.
The agency published Frequently Asked Questions on the supply chain website. In it, the Commission clarifies: “The FCC recognizes that comparable replacements for older networks may not be available in the marketplace. For example, the FCC has said that replacing older mobile wireless networks with a 4G LTE equipment or service that is 5G ready will be treated as a comparable replacement.”
Technology upgrades are not eligible for reimbursement. Examples include replacing a microwave backhaul with fiber backhaul, or replacing last-mile fixed wireless links with fiber-to-the-premises. Also ineligible is the replacement cost of fixed wireless links or Router Alert Option networks with fiber.
Temporary facilities are reimbursable if the provider needs them to avoid prolonged downtime during the transition. These will be approved on a case-by-case basis.
So too, are the costs of a new tower, which will also be approved on a case-by-case basis. “If a structural analysis of a tower concludes that the tower cannot be reinforced to support a new piece of equipment, the provider should determine whether there are other options available besides constructing a new tower that will allow it to complete its equipment replacement within its RRD term,” says the agency in the FAQ. “Any Reimbursement Program Participant seeking reimbursement for tower construction will be required to submit documentation, such as a statement signed and with the seal of an accredited structural engineer, certifying the results of a tower study, along with their cost estimate to erect the new tower.”
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