Rise Broadband vaults anti-China ‘rip and replace’ program’s Catch-22
Rise Broadband, the nation’s largest independent provider of fixed wireless Internet services in rural areas, said it plans to rip out ZTE’s equipment from its network – and will do so with its own cash.
“By making this decision, Rise Broadband is taking the initiative,” the company explained in a recent FCC filing, noting that its “reasoned and appropriate decision” should not prevent it from eventually getting a government reimbursement covering the cost of the effort.
A Rise executive declined to discuss the matter with Light Reading beyond the company’s FCC filing, including how much money the company is spending on the effort. However, Rise has previously said that it spent “several million dollars” on ZTE equipment in 2015.
While the details remain vague and the issue is decidedly complex, at the heart of Rise Broadband’s action is a Catch-22 that pits one government mandate against another, with the company stuck in the middle. And it yet again highlights the increasingly messy, expensive details surrounding the FCC’s efforts to completely eradicate Chinese equipment from US wireless networks.
Ripping and replacing
The first and most important factor in Rise Broadband’s new decision is the FCC’s “rip and replace” program. That effort seeks up to $2 billion from Congress to pay a number of mostly small wireless network operators to strip out their Huawei and ZTE equipment and replace it with equipment from other, unspecified “trusted” suppliers.
The FCC has already issued rules preventing companies involved in the program from purchasing additional equipment from the Chinese vendors, which have been deemed threats to national security.
As Rise explained in its filing, that ruling is running up against a separate FCC mandate, called Part 96, that requires companies operating in the 3.5GHz CBRS band to update their equipment by later this year to make way for new commercial operations in the band. Rise said those two conflicting issues are forcing the company to strip out ZTE’s equipment from its network ahead of receiving any “rip and replace” money (Congress has not yet allocated funds to the program).
To read the complete article, visit Light Reading.