Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) wrote to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai today urging him to assist companies as they prepare and plan to replace suspect network equipment, including companies eligible for reimbursement under the Secure and Trusted Reimbursement Program. The program was established by Pallone and Walden’s H.R. 4998, the Secure and Trusted Communications Network Act, which was signed into law earlier this year. While it has not yet been funded, the bipartisan Committee leaders say there is every expectation it will be, and the FCC should begin immediately to initiate certain implementation steps.
“Through this Program, small communications providers may seek reimbursement for the cost of removing and replacing suspect network equipment. This funding is critical because some small and rural communications providers would not otherwise be able to afford these upgrades,” wrote Pallone and Walden. “While the Program has not yet been funded by Congress, there is demonstrated bipartisan and bicameral support for doing so. In the meantime, carriers are moving forward to remove their suspect equipment and need guidance. There are specific steps the FCC can take to help companies eligible for reimbursement under the Program plan, prepare, and begin acting to remove and replace this equipment.”
The two Committee leaders encourage the FCC to develop and release a list of eligible equipment and software, for example, as well as reassure companies that they will not jeopardize their eligibility for reimbursement under the Program just because their replacement purchases were made before it was funded.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of having reliable and secure communications services, and companies eligible for reimbursement under the Program will have to engage in very careful and intentional planning to replace suspect equipment while at the same time not disrupting its service,” Pallone and Walden continued in their letter to Pai. “We urge you to take these specific, non-controversial actions as quickly as possible so these important efforts to secure our communications networks are not delayed.”
The full letter is available HERE.
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