FCC details $1.9 billion program to rip out Huawei and ZTE gear in the US

Carriers with under 10 million customers as well as some schools, libraries, and health care providers can apply for FCC funding to dispose of Chinese-vendor network equipment from October 29.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has laid out the rules for small carriers that are applying to access a pot of $1.9 billion to rip out and replace network equipment and services from Huawei and ZTE.

The rules state that carriers will need to have under 10 million customers and allow for the possibility of some schools, libraries, and health care providers gaining access to funds if they provide broadband services. For the purposes of the program, equipment would need to be capable of speeds above 200kbps in either direction.

"The reimbursement program will reimburse eligible providers of advanced communications services for costs reasonably incurred for the removal, replacement, and disposal of their Huawei and ZTE equipment and services obtained on or before June 30, 2020," the FCC said.

"RRD costs incurred prior to April 17, 2018 will not be reimbursable."

The FCC said in the cases of older network, replacing like-for-like may not be possible, and instances such as ripping out an older mobile network to be replaced by LTE or 5G-ready equipment would be allowed. Those receiving the funds will not be able to replace microwave backhaul or fixed wireless links with fibre links.

If a tower is not capable of holding replacement equipment, the cost of a new tower would be considered on a case-by-case basis, the regulator said.

Applicants for the funds will be able to claim vendor travel expenses and salary costs of internal employees dedicated purely to the replacement program.

"Separately, the commission has determined that the replacement of non-Huawei or ZTE mobile handsets and other customer premises equipment, including Internet of Things devices, used by end users to access and utilise advanced communications services are not reasonably necessary to the removal, replacement, and disposal of covered communications equipment or service," it said.

The window for applying runs from October 29 to January 14, with successful applicants expected to be informed in early Q2 2022.

The program has been in the works for two years, with the FCC officially designating Huawei and ZTE as national security threats in July 2020.

Separately, over the weekend, the US Justice Department and Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou cut a deal to end an extradition lawsuit that ran for nearly three years.

Meng admitted only to misleading global financial institutions, and did not plead guilty to the various fraud charges imposed against her.

Without even trying to hide its hostage diplomacy tactics, Beijing subsequently released two Canadians who were detained shortly after Meng's arrest and kept in Chinese prisons.

By contrast, Meng was able to live under house arrest in one of her two Vancouver homes.

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