FCC sets deadlines for Huawei rip and replace reimbursement
The Federal Communications Commission has set deadlines for recovery and replacement reimbursement, where broadband providers can apply to participate in the $ 1.9 billion program that covers the costs of swapping out equipment and services. existing Huawei and ZTE network considered national security risks.
The window for submitting requests opens on October 29, 2021 and ends on January 14, 2022. During this time, service providers can submit cost estimates for the removal, replacement and disposal of equipment covered by the program.
Early in the first quarter of 2022, the FCC will issue a public notice announcing accepted applications, with the regulator issuing funding allocation decisions early in the second quarter. In Q2 2022, participants can start submitting invoices for the actual costs they incurred and will receive reimbursement payments.
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Any advanced communications provider with 10 million customers or less, including schools, libraries, and healthcare providers, is eligible. Huawei and ZTE equipment covered by the program must have been purchased by June 30, 2020.
The program applies to both wired and wireless networks.
Along with a public notice (PDF) released on Monday, the FCC released a refund FAQ sheet.
Certain technology upgrades are eligible for a refund. For example, replacing old mobile wireless networks with 5G compatible 4G LTE equipment is considered a comparable replacement.
The program will not cover upgrades such as fiber-optic microwave backhaul replacement or last mile fixed wireless fiber-to-premises. Suppliers also cannot be reimbursed for replacing fixed wireless links with fiber.
Refunds do not include end-user devices, such as replacement of non-Huawei or ZTE mobile phones, IoT devices, or customer on-premises equipment like routers.
The funds can reimburse the construction of new towers, if for example existing towers cannot be reinforced to support new pieces of equipment. These cases will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
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The effort to remove Huawei and ZTE equipment from existing networks has already been a multi-year effort. At the end of December 2020, approximately $ 1.9 billion had been allocated to implement the Secure and Reliable Communications Networks Act of 2019. The FCC finalized the rules for the refund program this summer.
Some network providers have already announced victories to replace unsecured network equipment, including Ericsson, Nokia and Mavenir.
The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) said at least 15 members have identified equipment covered in their networks and are expected to participate in the program. The Rural Wireless Association (RWA), which represents wireless carriers with fewer than 100,000 subscribers, actively participated in the proceeding.
In a petition filed last week, RWA again urged the FCC to reconsider part of its Third Report and Order (PDF) on the matter.
The group wants a blanket extension of the one-year deadline to remove and replace existing network equipment, saying the FCC has not addressed commentators’ concerns about the supply chain and labor shortages .
The Secure Networks Act allows the FCC to grant a six-month extension, but the regulator determined it was premature to extend before an actual deadline was set, saying it would defeat the intent of the government. Congress for a one-year term. The FCC will consider extensions on a case-by-case basis.
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However, RWA said shortage concerns have only worsened since the group and others last requested an extension. (Nokia and CCA were among those asking for a general six-month extension).
“Multiple applicants will receive funding allowance at the same time, and to comply with the one-year deadline for removal, replacement and disposal, applicants will be in a race with each other to purchase and install equipment. already limited approvals and hire installers from a limited pool, creating further squeeze in supply and manpower as well as increased costs due to supply shortages ”, said RWA writes in the September 22 file (PDF). “These current and continuing compliance shortages require immediate general expansion. “
An ad hoc method, the group argued, would put additional pressure on limited resources and deplete funds paid for extension requests and associated costs that could have been spent on equipment.
Smaller, rural carriers who cannot afford the additional expense for extensions or the costs of penalties for not complying with the extraction and replacement mandate – including loss of revenue and inability to participating in the Universal Service Fund – would likely feel the impacts, according to RWA.