PARK CITY, Utah, June 30, 2022 – Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Stark acknowledged the agency’s goal of securing secure broadband networks at a Rural Wireless Association event on Wednesday.
“We need to make sure our broadband networks are secure,” Starks said in his keynote address at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here, delivered via Zoom. “This is evident in the constant barrage of attacks on US networks by hostile state and non-state actors.”
Starks continued, “Unsecured networks, by definition, cannot provide the stable, reliable, always-on communications that we need. Especially in an emergency… Broadband must be secure for the full benefits of broadband to be achieved.
The issue of ridding US telecommunications networks of Chinese-made equipment was a recurring theme at the conference.
In addition to Starks’ presentation, several sessions touched on the dilemma faced by telecom operators, especially rural operators, who had in the past invested heavily in lower-cost equipment from Huawei, a leading manufacturer. Chinese.
As the political winds have changed on the subject over the past three years, Congress has allocated funds for a “rip and replace” program. The FCC is expected to announce the providers who will receive nearly $2 billion under the program by July 15.
But some fear that number could be more than $4 billion short of needed funds.
“Available funds will only cover a very small part” of the costs of replacing Huawei with non-Chinese manufacturers, said Carri Bennettgeneral counsel for the Rural Wireless Association.
Potential new requirements for telecommunications providers
The commission recently asked for comment on whether it should require carriers that receive high-cost support to include basic cybersecurity and supply chain risk management plans.
If those plans are included in the requirements, Starks said US communications networks would be protected from bad actors. In addition, they comply with the requirements already included in the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act.
Starks thanked the RWA for its activity and advocacy in the “rip and replace” process, officially dubbed the Secure and Reliable Communications Network Reimbursement Program.
“The threat is real,” Starks said. “Companies deemed by the federal government to be a threat to the United States and its people cannot have free rein in data centers containing some of Americans’ most sensitive data.”
This comes just days after Commissioner Brendan Carr called on Apple and Google to remove the popular Beijing-based video-sharing app, TikTok, from their app stores in response to the apps having to comply with the People’s Republic of China’s surveillance requirements.
Broadband Breakfast editor and publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.