FCC to Formalize Suspect Tech Block, Rip & Replace Plan

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The FCC plans to vote next month on the framework for preventing the use of suspect tech in U.S. networks and ripping and replacing existing suspect tech, including a process for identifying which tech to expel.

The FCC has already formally designated Huawei and ZTE as suspect tech and excluded them from $8.3 billion in Universal Service Fund broadband subsidy money.

Related: Senate Bill Would Boost Rip-and-Replace Eligibility

The item would adopt rules requiring Eligible Telecommunications Carriers (ETCs) to "remove and replace covered equipment from their networks," and create a "Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program" to fund smaller carriers' removal and replacement of suspect tech, at least once Congress has appropriated the $1.6 billion the FCC has estimated it will cost.

The chairman has circulated a Second Report and Order to the other commissioners that would specifically:

•  "Adopt rules to publish and modify a list of communications equipment and services that Congress or enumerated national security agencies or interagency bodies with appropriate national security expertise determine pose an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States or the safety and security of its people.

• "Prohibit the use of any Federal subsidy that is made available through a program administered by the Commission and that provides funds to be used for the capital expenditures necessary for the provision of advanced communications service to purchase, rent, or otherwise obtain any covered communications equipment or services.

• "Establish the Secure and Trusted Communications Network Reimbursement Program, which will provide funds for the removal, replacement, and disposal of covered communications equipment and services, and condition the start of the program on Congress appropriating the funds the Commission estimates that program will cost.

• "Require Eligible Telecommunications Carriers and participants in the Secure and Trusted Communications Network Reimbursement Program to remove, replace, and dispose of covered communications equipment and services in their networks.

• "Require all providers of advanced communications services to report whether their networks use covered communications equipment or services acquired after August 14, 2018."

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai blogged that those are "critical next steps toward securing our communications networks." 

John Eggerton

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.