A bipartisan group of 18 Senators pressed their leadership to appropriate funds for the so-called “rip & replace” program and improved FCC broadband maps before the end of this week. Both chambers of Congress are rushing to wrap-up their business by Friday, in order to get home and quarantine before the holidays.
The concept of “rip & replace” is that smaller, rural carriers would be reimbursed for removing and replacing untrusted communications network equipment. Calling it a “national security imperative,” the lawmakers said in a letter: “Fully funding this program is essential to protecting the integrity of our communications infrastructure.”
The accuracy of broadband coverage maps is essential too, the lawmakers noted. “Current maps overstate broadband availability,” said the Senators. “Without these maps, the government risks overbuilding existing networks, duplicating funding already provided, and leaving communities unserved.”
Both issues are key to the Competitive Carriers Association. CCA President/CEO Steve Berry called the reimbursement program “vital not only to national security, but also to small, rural telecommunications operators – many of whom provide the only service to customers in their respective areas.” He called having to replace affected equipment “a massive financial and personnel undertaking.” Carriers depend on congressional funding to continue to provide critical mobile broadband services to their customers, he emphasized.
More accurate broadband maps are also critical to rural carriers, according to Berry. Such maps better identifying unserved and underserved areas “will help close the digital divide and help ensure that every American, no matter where they live, work, or travel, can access necessary mobile broadband services,” he said.
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