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Protecting National Security through the Communications Supply Chain

The United States is rapidly growing into the new digital age, and the COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed how we think about all aspects of our life; including work, school, and healthcare. As we have adapted to this new online world, it has shown us that more than ever the stability of our economy and communities depends on the reliability and security of our nation’s communications networks. With this shift to online work, it has elevated the risk of cyber threats to our country. Our government understands these risks and is determined to keep our nation’s networks secure. Additionally, corporate IT departments are now more dependent on the security decisions of their employees’ residential ISPs, whereas previously they could manage risk through a single commercial ISP.


The Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Act of 2019 required the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to publish and maintain a list of equipment or services that pose a threat to national security. In addition, the act established a program to remove any such equipment or services currently used in US networks. The bill also authorized the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program with the FCC to reimburse small communications providers for the removal of the prohibited equipment or services and to replace it with more secure equipment.

Reimbursement Program

Section 4 of the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks act of 2019 directed the FCC to establish a Reimbursement Program for the reimbursement costs that will be incurred by telecom providers to remove, replace and dispose of any prohibited communications equipment or services.

Eligible Entities

 

Costs Under Consideration

Below is a sampling of some of the costs that could be eligible under the program. Please see the catalog for a more detailed list:

Report and Catalog

The FCC enlisted Widelity to build a report and catalog of costs for the Secure and Trusted Communications Networks Reimbursement Program. We interviewed over 200 associations, alliances, equipment manufacturers, service providers (e.g., tower crews, attorneys, Radio Frequency (RF) and field engineers, transportation companies), vendors, and carriers across the United States mainland, Alaska, American Samoa, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, United Kingdom, and Canada to produce the following three items for the FCC.

  • Report: A qualitative overview of the challenges faced to rip and replace equipment; including the special challenges in shipping, transportation, and resources for remote and island locations.
  • Catalog of Cost:  A detailed list of the expected cost ranges across hardware, software, and service categories. For the FCC’s Rip and Replace, there were over 650 categories. 
  • Replacement List: A list of hardware and software suppliers and service providers capable of adding or updating a communications network.  

Conclusion

Through our extensive research into the removal, replacement, and disposal process of all eligible communications equipment, we have determined this will not be an easy process. There will be many challenges that lay ahead for a telecom provider to secure their network.

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