The FCC says it will need to give applicants for funding to remove and replace suspect tech from their networks more time to "cure" their deficient applications for government funds to pay for that mandate, and so will not meet a June 15, 2022 deadline for reviewing the applications.
FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel informed Congress of that fact by way of a letter to the bipartisan leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Senate Commerce Committee, which together oversee the FCC.
She pointed out that Congress, in passing the Secure and Trusted Communications Act, gave the FCC the authority to extend the June 15, 2022, deadline for reviewing the applications to give applicants time to cure deficient requests. While the FCC back in February signaled it expected to make the deadline, she said the review to date "has concluded that many of the applications the agency has received are materially deficient," either because their cost estimates are inadequate or they lack supporting material.
Rosenworcel said that given all those deficiencies, "we will not be able to issue funding allocations or determine true demand until the end of the statutory cure period."
She did say the FCC would update Congress on the timetable, but said it expected to be able to complete the review in "a matter of weeks" once new, cured, applications are filed, and will at least provide that update by June 15.
So far, the applicants are seeking over $5 billion in rip and replace reimbursement costs, while Congress has set aside only $1 billion, Rosenworcel pointed out, so the FCC is going to have to go back to the well unless their cost estimates are wildly inflated, or alternately only reimburse some expenses.
The figure was initially $5.6 billion, but the FCC review has shaved $300 million off that, so the current figure is $5.3 billion.
In the meantime, "should total allocation demand exceed the funding available," as seems likely, the FCC will have to triage the payments per a congressionally mandated prioritization process. ■
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Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.